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She  Mantle 


THE 

MANTLE 

AND  OTHER  STORIES 


Printed  hi  Gt'eat  Britain 


THE  MANTLE  AND 
OTHER  STORIES 


BY 

NICHOLAS    GOGOL 

AUTHOR  OF 
i,"  "TARAS  I 

TRANSLATED  BY  CLAUD  FIELD 
AND  WITH  AN  INTRODUCTION  ON  GOGOL 

BY 

PROSPER  MERIMEE 


New  York:  FREDERICK  A.  STOKES  Co. 

London:  T.  WERNER  LAURIE   LIMITED 


PRESERVATION 
COPY  ADDED 
ORIGINAL  TO  BE 
RETAINED 

IAN  1  4  W4 


"  Gogol,  Nikolai  Vassilievitch.  Born 
in  the  government  of  Pultowa,  March 
31  (N.S)  1809,  died  at  Moscow,  March 
4  (N.S.),  1852.  A  Russian  novelist 
and  dramatist.  He  was  educated  in  a 
public  gymnasium  at  Pultowa,  and 
subsequently  in  the  lyceum,then  newly 
established,  at  Niejinsk.  In  1831  he 
was  appointed  teacher  of  history  at  the 
Patriotic  Institution,  a  place  which  he 
exchanged  in  1834  for  the  professor- 
ship of  history  in  the  University  of  St 
Petersburg.  This  he  resigned  at  the  end 
of  a  year  and  devoted  himself  entirely 
to  literature.  In  1836  Gogol  left 
Russia.  He  lived  most  of  the  time  in 
Rome.  In  1837  he  wrote  'Dead 
Souls.'  In  1840  he  went  to  Russia  for 
a  short  period  in  order  to  superintend 
the  publication  of  the  first  volume  of 
1  Dead  Souls/  and  then  returned  to 
Italy.  In  1846  he  returned  to  Russia 
and  fell  into  a  state  of  fanatical  mys- 
ticism. One  of  his  last  acts  was  to 
burn  the  manuscript  of  the  concluding 
portion  of  ■  Dead  Souls,'  which  he 
considered  harmful.  He  also  wrote 
'The  Mantle,'  'Evenings  at  the 
Farm,'  '  St  Petersburg  Stories/  '  Taras 
Bulba/  a  tale  of  the  Cossacks,  '  The 
Revivor/  a  comedy,  etc." — From  The 
Century  Cyclopedia  of  Names. 


LOAN  STACK 


-     - 


m^sx 


sr 


5 
870 


CONTENTS 

PAGE 

PREFACE      7 

THE  MANTLE ,g 

THE  NOSE 67 

MEMOIRS  OF  A   MADMAN 107 

A   MAY   NIGHT I4I 

THE  VIY l87 


PREFACE 

As  a  novel-writer  and  a  dramatist,  Gogol  appears 
to  me  to  deserve  a  minute  study,  and  if  the 
knowledge  of  Eussian  were  more  widely  spread, 
he  could  not  fail  to  obtain  in  Europe  a  reputation 
equal  to  that  of  the  best  English  humorists. 

A  delicate  and  close  observer,  quick  to  detect 
the  absurd,  bold  in  exposing,  but  inclined  to 
push  his  fun  too  far,  Gogol  is  in  the  first  place 
a  very  lively  satirist.  He  is  merciless  towards 
fools  and  rascals,  but  he  has  only  one  weapon  at 
his  disposal — irony.  This  is  a  weapon  which  is 
too  severe  to  use  against  the  merely  absurd,  and 
on  the  other  hand  it  is  not  sharp  enough  for 
the  punishment  of  crime ;  and  it  is  against  crime 
that  Gogol  too  often  uses  it.  His  comic  vein 
is  always  too  near  the  farcical,  and  his  mirth  is 
hardly  contagious.  If  sometimes  he  makes  his 
reader  laugh,  he  still  leaves  in  his  mind  a  feeling 
of  bitterness  and  indignation;  his  satires  do  not 
avenge  society,  they  only  make  it  angry. 

As  a  painter  of  manners,  Gogol  excels  in 
familiar   scenes.     He    is   akin   to   Teniers   and 

7 


8  PEEFACE 

Callot.  We  feel  as  though  we  had  seen  and  lived 
with  his  characters,  for  he  shows  us  their  eccen- 
tricities, their  nervous  habits,  their  slightest 
gestures.  One  lisps,  another  mispronounces  his 
words,  and  a  third  hisses  because  he  has  lost 
a  front  tooth.  Unfortunately  Gogol  is  so  ab- 
sorbed in  this  minute  study  of  details  that  he  too 
often  forgets  to  subordinate  them  to  the  main 
action  of  the  story.  To  tell  the  truth,  there  is 
no  ordered  plan  in  his  works,  and — a  strange 
trait  in  an  author  who  sets  up  as  a  realist — he 
takes  no  care  to  preserve  an  atmosphere  of 
probability.  His  most  carefully  painted  scenes 
are  clumsily  connected — they  begin  and  end 
abruptly;  often  the  author's  great  carelessness 
in  construction  destroys,  as  though  wantonly,  the 
illusion  produced  by  the  truth  of  his  descrip- 
tions and  the  naturalness  of  his  conversations. 

The  immortal  master  of  this  school  of  desul- 
tory but  ingenious  and  attractive  story-tellers, 
among  whom  Gogol  is  entitled  to  a  high  place, 
is  Eabelais,  who  cannot  be  too  much  admired 
and  studied,  but  to  imitate  whom  nowadays 
would,  I  think,  be  dangerous  and  difficult.  In 
spite  of  the  indefinable  grace  of  his  obsolete 
language,  one  can  hardly  read  twenty  pages  of 
Eabelais  in  succession.  One  soon  wearies  of 
this  eloquence,  so  original  and  so  eloquent,  but 
the  drift  of  which  escapes  every  reader  except 
some  (Edipuses  like  Le  Duchat  or  Eloi  Johan- 


PEEFACE  9 

neau.  Just  as  the  observation  of  animalculse 
under  the  miscroscope  fatigues  the  eye,  so  does 
the  perusal  of  these  brilliant  pages  tire  the  mind. 
Possibly  not  a  word  of  them  is  superfluous,  but 
possibly  also  they  might  be  entirely  eliminated 
from  the  work  of  which  they  form  part,  without 
sensibly  detracting  from  its  merit.  The  art  of 
choosing  among  the  innumerable  details  which 
nature  offers  us  is,  after  all,  much  more  difficult 
than  that  of  observing  them  with  attention  and 
recording  them  with  exactitude. 

The  Eussian  language,  which  is,  as  far  as  I 
can  judge,  the  richest  of  all  the  European  family, 
seems  admirably  adapted  to  express  the  most 
delicate  shades  of  thought.  Possessed  of  a 
marvellous  conciseness  and  clearness,  it  can  with 
a  single  word  call  up  several  ideas,  to  express 
which  in  another  tongue  whole  phrases  would 
be  necessary.  French,  assisted  by  Greek  and 
Latin,  calling  to  its  aid  all  its  northern  and 
southern  dialects — the  language  of  Eabelais,  in 
fact,  is  the  only  one  which  can  convey  any  idea 
of  this  suppleness  and  this  energy.  One  can 
imagine  that  such  an  admirable  instrument  may 
exercise  a  considerable  influence  on  the  mind  of 
a  writer  who  is  capable  of  handling  it.  He 
naturally  takes  delight  in  the  picturesqueness  of 
its  expressions,  just  as  a  draughtsman  with  skill 
and  a  good  pencil  will  trace  delicate  contours. 
An   excellent    gift,    no   doubt,    but   there    are 


10  PEEFACE 

few  things  which  have  not  their  disadvantages. 
Elaborate  execution  is  a  considerable  merit  if  it 
is  reserved  for  the  chief  parts  of  a  work ;  but  if  it 
is  uniformly  lavished  on  all  the  accessory  parts 
also,  the  whole  produces,  I  fear,  a  monotonous 
effect. 

I  have  said  that  satire  is,  in  my  opinion,  the 
special  characteristic  of  Gogol's  talent :  he  does 
not  see  men  or  things  in  a  bright  light.  That 
does  not  mean  that  he  is  an  unfaithful  observer, 
but  his  descriptions  betray  a  certain  preference 
for  the  ugly  and  the  sad  elements  in  life. 
Doubtless  these  two  disagreeable  elements  are 
only  too  easily  found,  and'it  is  precisely  for  that 
reason  that  they  should  not  be  investigated  with 
insatiable  curiosity.  We  would  form  a  terrible 
idea  of  Eussia — of  * c  Holy  Eussia, ' '  as  her  chil- 
dren call  her — if  we  only  judged  her  by  the  pic- 
tures which  Gogol  draws.  His  characters  are 
almost  entirely  confined  to  idiots,  or  scoundrels 
who  deserve  to  be  hung.  It  is  a  well-known 
defect  of  satirists  to  see  everywhere  the  game 
which  they  are  hunting,  and  they  should  not  be 
taken  too  literally.  Aristophanes  vainly  em- 
ployed his  brilliant  genius  in  blackening  his  con- 
temporaries; he  cannot  prevent  us  loving  the 
Athens  of  Pericles. 

Gogol  generally  goes  to  the  country  districts 
for  his  characters,  imitating  in  this  respect 
Balzac,  whose  writings  have  undoubtedly  influ- 


PREFACE  11 

enced  him.  The  modern  facility  of  communica- 
tion in  Europe  has  brought  about,  among  the 
higher  classes  of  all  countries  and  the  inhabitants 
of  the  great  cities,  a  conventional  uniformity 
of  manners  and  customs,  e.g.  the  dress-coat 
and  round  hat.  It  is  among  the  middle  classes 
remote  from  great  towns  that  we  must  look 
to-day  for  national  characteristics  and  for  ori- 
ginal characters.  In  the  country,  people  still 
maintain  primitive  habits  and  prejudices — things 
which  become  rarer  from  day  to  day.  The 
Russian  country  gentlemen,  who  only  journey  to 
St  Petersburg  once  in  a  lifetime,  and  who,  living 
on  their  estates  all  the  year  round,  eat  much, 
read  little  and  hardly  think  at  all — these  are  the 
types  to  which  Gogol  is  partial,  or  rather  which 
he  pursues  with  his  jests  and  sarcasms.  Some 
critics,  I  am  told,  reproach  him  for  displaying 
a  kind  of  provincial  patriotism.  As  a  Little 
Russian,  he  is  said  to  have  a  predilection  for 
Little  Russia  over  the  rest  of  the  Empire.  For 
my  own  part,  I  find  him  impartial  enough  or  even 
too  general  in  his  criticisms,  and  on  the  other 
hand  too  severe  on  anyone  whom  he  places  under 
the  microscope  of  his  observation.  Pushkin  was 
accused,  quite  wrongly  in  my  opinion,  of  scepti- 
cism, immorality,  and  of  belonging  to  the  Satanic 
school ;  however  he  discovered  in  an  old  country 
manor  his  admirable  Tatiana.  One  regrets  that 
Gogol  has  not  been  equally  fortunate. 


12  PEEFACE 

I  do  not  know  the  dates  of  Gogol's  different 
works,  but  I  should  be  inclined  to  believe  that  his 
short  stories  were  the  first  in  order  of  publica- 
tion. They  seem  to  me  to  witness  to  a  certain 
vagueness  in  the  author's  mind,  as  though  he 
were  making  experiments  in  order  to  ascertain 
to  what  style  of  work  his  genius  was  best  adapted. 
He  has  produced  an  historical  romance  inspired 
by  the  perusal  of  Sir  Walter  Scott,  fantastic 
legends,  psychological  studies,  marked  by  a  mix- 
ture of  sentimentality  and  grotesqueness.  If  my 
conjecture  is  correct,  he  has  been  obliged  to  ask 
himself  for  some  time  whether  he  should  take  as 
his  model  Sterne,  Walter  Scott,  Chamisso,  or 
Hoffmann.  Later  on  he  has  done  better  in  fol- 
lowing the  path  which  he  has  himself  traced  out. 
"  Taras  Bulba,"  his  historical  romance,  is  an 
animated  and,  as  far  as  I  know,  correct  picture 
of  the  Zaporogues,  that  singular  people  whom 
Voltaire  briefly  mentions  in  his  ' '  Life  of  Charles 
XII."  In  the  sixteenth  and  seventeenth  cen- 
turies the  Zaporogues  played  a  great  part  in  the 
annals  of  Eussia  and  of  Poland ;  they  then  formed 
a  republic  of  soldiers,  or  rather  of  filibusters, 
established  on  the  islands  of  the  Don,  nominal 
subjects  sometimes  of  the  Kings  of  Poland,  some- 
times of  the  Grand  Dukes  of  Moscow,  sometimes 
even  of  the  Ottoman  Porte.  At  bottom  they 
were  extremely  independent  bandits,  and  rav- 
aged their  neighbours'  territory  with  great  im- 


PEEFACE  13 

partiality.  They  did  not  allow  women  to  live  in 
their  towns,  which  were  a  kind  of  nomad  en- 
campments ;  it  was  there  that  the  Cossack  aspir- 
ants to  military  glory  went  to  be  trained  as 
irregular  troops.  The  most  absolute  equality 
prevailed  among  the  Zaporogues  while  at  peace 
in  the  marshes  of  the  Don.  Then  the  chiefs,  or 
atamans,  when  speaking  to  their  subordinates 
always  took  their  caps  off.  But  during  an  ex- 
pedition, on  the  contrary,  their  power  was  un- 
limited, and  disobedience  to  the  captain  of  the 
company  (Ataman  Kotchevoi')  was  considered  the 
greatest  of  crimes. 

Our  filibusters  of  the  seventeenth  century  have 
many  traits  of  resemblance  to  the  Zaporogues, 
and  the  histories  of  both  preserve  the  remem- 
brance of  prodigies  of  audacity  and  of  horrible 
cruelties.  Taras  Bulba  is  one  of  those  heroes 
with  whom,  as  the  student  of  Schiller  said,  one 
can  only  have  relations  when  holding  a  well- 
loaded  gun  in  one's  hand.  I  am  one  of  those 
who  have  a  strong  liking  for  bandits ;  not  because 
I  like  to  meet  them  on  my  road,  but  because,  in 
spite  of  myself,  the  energy  these  men  display  in 
struggling  against  the  whole  of  society,  extorts 
from  me  an  admiration  of  which  I  am  ashamed. 
Formerly  I  read  with  delight  the  lives  of  Morgan, 
of  Donnais,  and  of  Mombars  the  destroyer,  and 
I  would  not  be  bored  if  I  read  them  again. 
However,  there  are  bandits  and  bandits.     Their 


14  PEEFACE 

glory  is  greatly  enhanced  if  they  are  of  a  recent 
date.  Actual  bandits  always  cast  into  the  shade 
those  of  the  melodrama,  and  the  one  who  has 
been  more  recently  hung  infallibly  effaces  the 
fame  of  his  predecessors.  Nowadays  neither 
Mombars  nor  Taras  Bulba  can  excite  so  much 
interest  as  Mussoni,  who  last  month  sustained  a 
regular  siege  in  a  wolf's  den  against  five  hundred 
men,  who  had  to  attack  him  by  sapping  and 
mining. 

Gogol  has  made  brilliantly  coloured  pictures 
of  his  Zaporogues,  which  please  by  their  very 
grotesqueness ;  but  sometimes  it  is  too  evident 
that  he  has  not  drawn  them  from  nature.  More- 
over, these  character-pictures  are  framed  in  such 
a  trivial  and  romantic  setting  that  one  regrets  to 
see  them  so  ill-placed.  The  most  prosaic  story 
would  have  suited  them  better  than  these  melo- 
dramatic scenes  in  which  are  accumulated  tragic 
incidents  of  famine,  torture,  etc.  In  short,  one 
feels  that  the  author  is  not  at  ease  on  the  ground 
which  he  has  chosen;  his  gait  is  awkward,  and 
the  invariable  irony  of  his  style  makes  the 
perusal  of  these  melancholy  incidents  more  pain- 
ful. This  style  which,  in  my  opinion,  is  quite  out 
of  place  in  some  parts  of  "  Taras  Bulba,"  is 
much  more  appropriate  in  the  ' '  Viy , ' '  or  r'  King 
of  the  Gnomes,"  a  tale  of  witchcraft,  which 
amuses  and  alarms  at  the  same  time.  The 
grotesque    easily   blends   with   the   marvellous. 


PREFACE  15 

Recognising  to  the  full  the  poetic  side  of  his 
subject,  the  author,  while  describing  the  savage 
and  strange  customs  of  the  old-time  Cossacks 
with  his  usual  precision  and  exactitude,  has  easily 
prepared  the  way  for  the  introduction  of  an 
element  of  uncanniness. 

The  receipt  for  a  good,  fantastic  tale  is  well 
known :  begin  with  well-defined  portraits  of 
eccentric  characters,  but  such  as  to  be  within 
the  bounds  of  possibility,  described  with  minute 
realism.  From  the  grotesque  to  the  marvellous 
the  transition  is  imperceptible,  and  the  reader 
will  find  himself  in  the  world  of  fantasy  before 
he  perceives  that  he  has  left  the  real  world  far 
behind  him.  I  purposely  avoid  any  attempt  to 
analyse  ' '  The  King  of  the  Gnomes ' ' ;  the  proper 
time  and  place  to  read  it  is  in  the  country,  by  the 
fireside  on  a  stormy  autumn  night.  After  the 
denouement,  it  will  require  a  certain  amount  of 
resolution  to  traverse  long  corridors  to  reach 
one's  room,  while  the  wind  and  the  rain  shake 
the  casements.  Now  that  the  fantastic  style  of 
the  Germans  is  a  little  threadbare,  that  of  the 
Cossacks  will  have  novel  charms,  and  in  the  first 
place  the  merit  of  resembling  nothing  else — no 
slight  praise,  I  think. 

The  ' '  Memoirs  of  a  Madman  ' '  is  simultane- 
ously a  social  satire,  a  sentimental  story,  and  a 
medico-legal  study  of  the  phenomena  presented 
by  a  brain  which  is  becoming  deranged.     The 


16  PREFACE 

study,  I  believe,  is  carefully  made  and  the  pro- 
cess carefully  depicted,  but  I  do  not  like  this 
class  of  writing ;  madness  is  one  of  those  misfor- 
tunes which  arouse  pity  but  which  disgust  at  the 
same  time.  Doubtless,  by  introducing  a  mad- 
man in  his  story  an  author  is  sure  of  producing 
an  effect.  It  causes  to  vibrate  a  cord  which  is 
always  susceptible ;  but  it  is  a  cheap  method,  and 
Gogol's  gifts  are  such  as  to  be  able  to  dispense 
with  having  resort  to  such.  The  portrayal  of 
lunatics  and  dogs — both  of  whom  can  produce 
an  irresistible  effect — should  be  left  to  tyros.  It 
is  easy  to  extract  tears  from  a  reader  by  breaking 
a  poodle's  paw.  Homer's  only  excuse,  in  my 
opinion,  for  making  us  weep  at  the  mutual  recog- 
nition of  the  dog  Argus  and  Ulysses,  is  because 
he  was,  I  think,  the  first  to  discover  the  resources 
which  the  canine  race  offers  to  an  author  at  a  loss 
for  expedients. 

I  hasten  to  go  on  to  a  small  masterpiece,  "  An 
Old-time  Household."  In  a  few  pages  Gogol 
sketches  for  us  the  life  of  two  honest  old  folk 
living  in  the  country.  There  is  not  a  grain  of 
malice  in  their  composition;  they  are  cheated 
and  adored  by  their  servants,  and  naive  egoists 
as  they  are,  believe  everyone  is  as  happy  as 
themselves.  The  wife  dies.  The  husband,  who 
only  seemed  born  for  merry-making,  falls  ill  and 
dies  some  months  after  his  wife.  We  discover 
that  there  was  a  heart  in  this  mass  of  flesh.     We 


PREFACE  17 

laugh  and  weep  in  turns  while  reading  this 
charming  story,  in  which  the  art  of  the  narrator 
is  disguised  by  simplicity.  All  is  true  and 
natural ;  every  detail  is  attractive  and  adds  to  the 
general  effect. 

Translator's  Note. — The  rest  of  MerimeVs 
essay  is  occupied  with  analyses  of  Gogol's  "  Dead 
Souls "  and  "The  Revisory  and  therefore  is 
not  given  here. 


B 


\<b 


THE    MANTLE 

In  a  certain  Eussian  ministerial  department 

But  it  is  perhaps  better  that  I  do  not  mention 
which  department  it  was.  There  are  in  the 
whole  of  Eussia  no  persons  more  sensitive  than 
Government  officials.  Each  of  them  believes  if 
he  is  annoyed  in  any  way,  that  the  whole  official 
class  is  insulted  in  his  person. 

Eecently  an  Isprawnik  (country  magistrate) — 
I  do  not  know  of  which  town — is  said  to  have 
drawn  up  a  report  with  the  object  of  showing 
that,  ignoring  Government  orders,  people  were 
speaking  of  Isprawniks  in  terms  of  contempt.  In 
order  to  prove  his  assertions,  he  forwarded  with 
his  report  a  bulky  work  of  fiction,  in  which  on 
about  every  tenth  page  an  Isprawnik  appeared 
generally  in  a  drunken  condition. 

In  order  therefore  to  avoid  any  unpleasant- 
ness, I  will  not  definitely  indicate  the  depart- 
ment in  which  the  scene  of  my  story  is  laid,  and 
will  rather  say  "  in  a  certain  chancellery." 

Well,  in  a  certain  chancellery  there  was  a 
certain  man  who,  as  I  cannot  deny,  was  not  of 
an  attractive  appearance.     He  was  short,  had  a 

19 


20  THE    MANTLE 

face  marke'd  with  smallpox,  was  rather  bald  in 
front,  and  his  forehead  and  cheeks  were  deeply 
lined  with  furrows — to  say  nothing  of  other 
physical  imperfections.  Such  was  the  outer 
aspect  of  our  hero,  as  produced  by  the  St  Peters- 
burg climate. 

As  regards  his  official  rank — for  with  us 
Eussians  the  official  rank  must  always  be  given — 
he  was  what  is  usually  known  as  a  permanent 
titular  councillor,  one  of  those  unfortunate  beings 
who,  as  is  well  known,  are  made  a  butt  of  by 
various  authors  who  have  the  Had  habit  of 
attacking  people  who  cannot  defend  themselves. 

Our  hero's  family  name  was  Bashmatchkin ; 
his  baptismal  name  Akaki  Akakievitch.  Per- 
haps the  reader  may  think  this  name  somewhat 
strange  and  far-fetched,  but  he  can  be  assured 
that  it  is  not  so,  and  that  circumstances  so 
arranged  it  that  it  was  quite  impossible  to  give 
him  any  other  name. 

This  happened  in  the  following  way.  Akaki 
Akakievitch  was  born,  if  I  am  not  mistaken,  on 
the  night  of  the  23rd  of  March.  His  deceased 
mother,  the  wife  of  an  official  and  a  very  good 
woman,  immediately  made  proper  arrange- 
ments for  his  baptism.  When  the  time  came, 
she  was  lying  on  the  bed  before  the  door.  At 
her  right  hand  stood  the  godfather,  Ivan  Ivano- 
vitch  Jeroshkin,  a  very  important  person,  who 
was  registrar  of  the  senate ;  at  her  left,  the  god- 


THE    MANTLE  21 

mother  Anna  Semenovna  Byelobrushkova,  the 
wife  of  a  police  inspector,  a  woman  of  rare 
virtues. 

Three  names  were  suggested  to  the  mother 
from  which  to  choose  one  for  the  child — 
Mokuja,  Sossuja,  or  Khozdazat. 

"  No,"  she  said,  "  I  don't  like  such  names." 

In  order  to  meet  her  wishes,  the  church  calen- 
dar was  opened  in  another  place,  and  the  names 
Triphiliy,  Dula,  and  Varakhasiy  were  found. 

' '  This  is  a  punishment  from  heaven, '  ■  said  the 
mother.  "What  sort  of  names  are  these!  I 
never  heard  the  like !  If  it  had  been  Varadat 
or  Varukh,  but  Triphiliy  and  Varakhasiy !  ' ' 

They  looked  again  in  the  calendar  and  found 
Pavsikakhiy  and  Vakhtisiy. 

"Now  I  see,"  said  the  mother,  "this  is 
plainly  fate.  If  there  is  no  help  for  it,  then  he 
had  better  take  his  father's  name,  which  was 
Akaki." 

So  the  child  was  called  Akaki  Akakievitch. 
It  was  baptised,  although  it  wept  and  cried  and 
made  all  kinds  of  grimaces,  as  though  it  had  a 
presentiment  that  it  would  one  day  be  a  titular 
councillor. 

We  have  related  all  this  so  conscientiously  that 
the  reader  himself  might  be  convinced  that  it 
was  impossible  for  the  little  Akaki  to  receive  any 
other  name.  When  and  how  he  entered  the 
chancellery   and  who   appointed  him,    no  one 


22  THE    MANTLE 

could  remember.  However  many  of  his  superiors 
might  come  and  go,  he  was  always  seen  in  the 
same  spot,  in  the  same  attitude,  busy  with  the 
same  work,  and  bearing  the  same  title;  so  that 
people  began  to  believe  he  had  come  into  the 
world  just  as  he  was,  with  his  bald  forehead  and 
official  uniform. 

In  the  chancellery  where  he  worked,  no  kind 
of  notice  was  taken  of  him.  Even  the  office 
attendants  did  not  rise  from  their  seats  when  he 
entered,  nor  look  at  him;  they  took  no  more 
notice  than  if  a  fly  had  flown  through  the  room. 
His  superiors  treated  him  in  a  coldly  despotic 
manner.  The  assistant  of  the  head  of  the 
department,  when  he  pushed  a  pile  of  papers 
under  his  nose,  did  not  even  say  "  Please  copy 
those,"  or  "  There  is  something  interesting  for 
you,"  or  make  any  other  polite  remark  such  as 
well-educated  officials  are  in  the  habit  of  doing. 
But  Akaki  took  the  documents,  without  worrying 
himself  whether  they  had  the  right  to  hand  them 
over  to  him  or  not,  and  straightway  set  to  work 
to  copy  them. 

His  young  colleagues  made  him  the  butt  of 
their  ridicule  and  their  elegant  wit,  so  far  as 
officials  can  be  said  to  possess  any  wit.  They 
did  not  scruple  to  relate  in  his  presence  various 
tales  of  their  own  invention  regarding  his  manner 
of  life  and  his  landlady,  who  was  seventy  years 
old.     They  declared    that  she   beat  him,    and 


THE    MANTLE  23 

inquired  of  him  when  he  would  lead  her  to  the 
marriage  altar.  Sometimes  they  let  a  shower 
of  scraps  of  paper  fall  on  his  head,  and  told  him 
they  were  snowflakes. 

But  Akaki  Akakievitch  made  no  answer  to 
all  these  attacks;  he  seemed  oblivious  of  their 
presence.  His  work  was  not  affected  in  the 
slightest  degree;  during  all  these  interruptions 
he  did  not  make  a  single  error  in  copying.  Only 
when  the  horse-play  grew  intolerable,  when  he 
was  held  by  the  arm  and  prevented  writing,  he 
would  say  ' '  Do  leave  me  alone !  Why  do  you 
always  want  to  disturb  me  at  work  ?  ' '  There 
was  something  peculiarly  pathetic  in  these  words 
and  the  way  in  which  he  uttered  them. 

One  day  it  happened  that  when  a  young  clerk, 
who  had  been  recently  appointed  to  the  chan- 
cellery, prompted  by  the  example  of  the  others, 
was  playing  him  some  trick,  he  suddenly  seemed 
arrested  by  something  in  the  tone  of  Akaki' s 
voice,  and  from  that  moment  regarded  the  old 
official  with  quite  different  eyes.  He  felt  as  though 
some  supernatural  power  drew  him  away  from 
the  colleagues  whose  acquaintance  he  had  made 
here,  and  whom  he  had  hitherto  regarded  as 
well-educated,  respectable  men,  and  alienated 
him  from  them.  Long  afterwards,  when  sur- 
rounded by  gay  companions,  he  would  see  the 
figure  of  the  poor  little  councillor  and  hear  the 
words   ' '  Do  leave   me  alone !     Why  will  you 


24  THE    MANTLE 

always  disturb  me  at  work  ? ' '  Along  with  these 
.words,  he  also  heard  others  :  ' '  Am  I  not  your 
brother?  "  On  such  occasions  the  young  man 
would  hide  his  face  in  his  hands,  and  think  how 
little  humane  feeling  after  all  was  to  be  found  in 
men's  hearts;  how  much  coarseness  and  cruelty 
was  to  be  found  even  in  the  educated  and  those 
who  were  everywhere  regarded  as  good  and 
honourable  men. 

Never  was  there  an  official  who  did  his 
work  so  zealously  as  Akaki  Akakievitch.  "  Zeal- 
ously," do  I  say?  He  worked  with  a  passionate 
love  of  his  task.  While  he  copied  official  docu- 
ments, a  world  of  varied  beauty  rose  before 
his  eyes.  His  delight  in  copying  was  legible  in 
his  face.  To  form  certain  letters  afforded  him 
special  satisfaction,  and  when  he  came  to  them 
he  was  quite  another  man;  he  began  to  smile, 
his  eyes  sparkled,  and  he  pursed  up  his  lips,  so 
that  those  who  knew  him  could  see  by  his  face 
which  letters  he  was  working  at. 

Had  he  been  rewarded  according  to  his  zeal, 
he  would  perhaps — to  his  own  astonishment — 
have  been  raised  to  the  rank  of  civic  councillor. 
However,  he  was  not  destined,  as  his  colleagues 
expressed  it,  to  wear  a  cross  at  his  buttonhole, 
but  only  to  get  haemorrhoids  by  leading  a  too 
sedentary  life. 

For  the  rest,  I  must  mention  that  on  one 
occasion  he  attracted  a  certain  amount  of  atten- 


THE    MANTLE  25 

tion.  A  director,  who  was  a  kindly  man  and 
wished  to  reward  him  for  his  long  service, 
ordered  that  he  should  be  entrusted  with  a  task 
more  important  than  the  documents  which  he 
usually  had  to  copy.  This  consisted  in  prepar- 
ing a  report  for  a  court,  altering  the  headings  of 
various  documents,  and  here  and  there  changing 
the  first  personal  pronoun  into  the  third. 

Akaki  undertook  the  work;  but  it  confused 
and  exhausted  him  to  such  a  degree  that  the 
sweat  ran  from  his  forehead  and  he  at  last 
exclaimed  :  "  No  !  Please  give  me  again  some- 
thing to  copy."  From  that  time  he  was  allowed 
to  continue  copying  to  his  life's  end. 

Outside  this  copying  nothing  appeared  to  exist 
for  him.  He  did  not  even  think  of  his  clothes. 
His  uniform,  which  was  originally  green,  had 
acquired  a  reddish  tint.  The  collar  was  so 
narrow  and  so  tight  that  his  neck,  although  of 
average  length,  stretched  far  out  of  it,  and 
appeared  extraordinarily  long,  just  like  those  of 
the  cats  with  movable  heads,  which  are  carried 
about  on  trays  and  sold  to  the  peasants  in  Eussian 
villages. 

Something  was  always  sticking  to  his  clothes — 
a  piece  of  thread,  a  fragment  of  straw  which  had 
been  flying  about,  etc.  Moreover  he  seemed 
to  have  a  special  predilection  for  passing  under 
windows  just  when  something  not  very  clean  was 
being  thrown  out  of  them,   and   therefore  he 


26  THE    MANTLE 

constantly  carried  about  on  his  hat  pieces  of 
orange-peel  and  such  refuse.  He  never  took 
any  notice  of  what  was  going  on  in  the  streets, 
in  contrast  to  his  colleagues  who  were  always 
watching  people  closely  and  whom  nothing  de- 
lighted more  than  to  see  someone  walking  along 
on  the  opposite  pavement  with  a  rent  in  his 
trousers. 

But  Akaki  Akakievitch  saw  nothing  but  the 
clean,  regular  lines  of  his  copies  before  him; 
and  only  when  he  collided  suddenly  with  a 
horse's  nose,  which  blew  its  breath  noisily  in  his 
face,  did  the  good  man  observe  that  he  was  not 
sitting  at  his  writing-table  among  his  neat  dupli- 
cates, but  walking  in  the  middle  of  the  street. 

When  he  arrived  home,  he  sat  down  at  once 
to  supper,  ate  his  cabbage-soup  hurriedly,  and 
then,  without  taking  any  notice  how  it  tasted,  a 
slice  of  beef  with  garlic,  together  with  the  flies 
and  any  other  trifles  which  happened  to  be 
lying  on  it.  As  soon  as  his  hunger  was  satis- 
fied, he  set  himself  to  write,  and  began  to  copy 
the  documents  which  he  had  brought  home  with 
him.  If  he  happened  to  have  no  official  docu- 
ments to  copy,  he  copied  for  his  own  satisfaction 
political  letters,  not  for  their  more  or  less  grand 
style  but  because  they  were  directed  to  some 
high  personage. 

When  the  grey  St  Petersburg  sky  is  darkened 
by  the  veil  of  night,  and  the  whole  of  officialdom 


THE    MANTLE  27 

has  finished  its  dinner  according  to  its  gastro- 
nomical  inclinations  or  the  depth  of  its  purse — 
when  all  recover  themselves  from  the  perpetual 
scratching  of  bureaucratic  pens,  and  all  the  cares 
and  business  with  which  men  so  often  needlessly 
burden  themselves,  they  devote  the  evening  to 
recreation.  One  goes  to  the  theatre;  another 
roams  about  the  streets,  inspecting  toilettes; 
another  whispers  flattering  words  to  some  young 
girl  who  has  risen  like  a  star  in  his  modest  official 
circle.  Here  and  there  one  visits  a  colleague  in 
his  third  or  fourth  story  flat,  consisting  of  two 
rooms  with  an  entrance-hall  and  kitchen,  fitted 
with  some  pretentious  articles  of  furniture  pur- 
chased by  many  abstinences. 

In  short,  at  this  time  every  official  betakes  him- 
self to  some  form  of  recreation — playing  whist, 
drinking  tea,  and  eating  cheap  pastry  or  smok- 
ing tobacco  in  long  pipes.  Some  relate  scandals 
about  great  people,  for  in  whatever  situation  of 
life  the  Eussian  may  be,  he  always  likes  to  hear 
about  the  aristocracy;  others  recount  well-worn 
but  popular  anecdotes,  as  for  example  that  of  the 
commandant  to  whom  it  was  reported  that  a 
rogue  had  cut  off  the  horse's  tail  on  the  monu- 
ment of  Peter  the  Great. 

But  even  at  this  time  of  rest  and  recreation, 
Akaki  Akakievitch  remained  faithful  to  his  habits. 
No  one  could  say  that  he  had  ever  seen  him  in 
any  evening  social  circle.     After  he  had  written 


28  THE    MANTLE 

as  much  as  he  wanted,  he  went  to  bed,  and 
thought  of  the  joys  of  the  coming  day,  and  the 
fine  copies  which  God  would  give  him  to  do. 

So  flowed  on  the  peaceful  existence  of  a  man 
who  was  quite  content  with  his  post  and  his  in- 
come of  four  hundred  roubles  a  year.  He  might 
perhaps  have  reached  an  extreme  old  age  if  one 
of  those  unfortunate  events  had  not  befallen  him, 
which  not  only  happen  to  titular  but  to  actual 
privy,  court,  and  other  councillors,  and  also  to 
persons  who  never  give  advice  nor  receive  it. 

In  St  Petersburg  all  those  who  draw  a  salary 
of  four  hundred  roubles  or  thereabouts  have  a 
terrible  enemy  in  our  northern  cold,  although 
some  assert  that  it  is  very  good  for  the  health. 
About  nine  o'clock  in  the  morning,  when  the 
clerks  of  the  various  departments  betake  them- 
selves to  their  offices,  the  cold  nips  their  noses 
so  vigorously  that  most  of  them  are  quite  bewil- 
dered. If  at  this  time  even  high  officials  so 
suffer  from  the  severity  of  the  cold  in  their  own 
persons  that  the  tears  come  into  their  eyes,  what 
must  be  the  sufferings  of  the  titular  councillors, 
whose  means  do  not  allow  of  their  protecting 
themselves  against  the  rigour  of  winter?  When 
they  have  put  on  their  light  cloaks,  they  must 
hurry  through  five  or  six  streets  as  rapidly  as 
possible,  and  then  in  the  porter's  lodge  warm 
themselves  and  wait  till  their  frozen  official 
faculties  have  thawed. 


THE    MANTLE  29 

For  some  time  Akaki  had  been  feeling  on  his 
back  and  shoulders  very  sharp  twinges  of  pain, 
although  he  ran  as  fast  as  possible  from  his 
dwelling  to  the  office.  After  well  considering  the 
matter,  he  came  to  the  conclusion  that  these 
were  due  to  the  imperfections  of  his  cloak'.  In  his 
room  he  examined  it  carefully,  and  discovered 
that  in  two  or  three  places  it  had  become  so  thin 
as  to  be  quite  transparent,  and  that  the  lining 
was  much  torn. 

This  cloak  had  been  for  a  long  time  the  stand- 
ing object  of  jests  on  the  part  of  Akaki' s  merci- 
less colleagues.  They  had  even  robbed  it  of  the 
noble  name  of  "cloak,"  and  called  it  a  cowl. 
It  certainly  presented  a  remarkable  appearance. 
Every  year  the  collar  had  grown  smaller,  for 
every  year  the  poor  titular  councillor  had  taken 
a  piece  of  it  away  in  order  to  repair  some  other 
part  of  the  cloak ;  and  these  repairs  did  not  look 
as  if  they  had  been  done  by  the  skilled  hand 
of  a  tailor.  They  had  been  executed  in  a  very 
clumsy  way  and  looked  remarkably  ugly. 

After  Akaki  Akakievitch  had  ended  his 
melancholy  examination,  he  said  to  himself  that 
he  must  certainly  take  his  cloak  to  Petrovitch  the 
tailor,  who  lived  high  up  in  a  dark  den  on  the 
fourth  floor. 

With  his  squinting  eyes  and  pock-marked  face, 
Petrovitch  certainly  did  not  look  as  if  he  had  the 
honour  to  make  frock-coats  and  trousers  for 


30  THE    MANTLE 

high  officials — that  is  to  say,  when  he  was  sober, 
and  not  absorbed  in  more  pleasant  diversions. 

I  might  dispense  here  with  dwelling  on  this 
tailor;  but  since  it  is  the  custom  to  portray  the 
physiognomy  of  every  separate  personage  in  a 
tale,  I  must  give  a  better  or  worse  description 
of  Petrovitch.  Formerly  when  he  was  a  simple 
serf  in  his  master's  house,  he  was  merely  called 
Gregor.  When  he  became  free,  he  thought  he 
ought  to  adorn  himself  with  a  new  name,  and 
dubbed  himself  Petrovitch;  at  the  same  time  he 
began  to  drink  lustily,  not  only  on  the  high  festi- 
vals but  on  all  those  which  are  marked  with  a 
cross  in  the  calendar.  By  thus  solemnly  cele- 
brating the  days  consecrated  by  the  Church,  he 
considered  that  he  was  remaining  faithful  to  the 
traditions  of  his  childhood;  and  when  he  quar- 
relled with  his  wife,  he  shouted  that  she  was  an 
earthly  minded  creature  and  a  German.  Of  this 
lady  we  have  nothing  more  to  relate  than  that  she 
was  the  wife  of  Petrovitch,  and  that  she  did  not 
wear  a  kerchief  but  a  cap  on  her  head.  For  the 
rest,  she  was  not  pretty ;  only  the  soldiers  looked 
at  her  as  they  passed,  then  they  twirled  their 
moustaches  and  walked  on,  laughing. 

Akaki  Akakievitch  accordingly  betook  himself 
to  the  tailor's  attic.  He  reached  it  by  a  dark, 
dirty,  damp  staircase,  from  which,  as  in  all  the 
inhabited  houses  of  the  poorer  class  in  St  Peters- 
burg, exhaled  an  effluvia  of  spirits  vexatious  to 


THE    MANTLE  81 

nose  and  eyes  alike.  As  the  titular  councillor 
climbed  these  slippery  stairs,  he  calculated  what 
sum  Petrovitch  could  reasonably  ask  for  repair- 
ing his  cloak,  and  determined  only  to  give  him 
a  rouble. 

The  door  of  the  tailor's  flat  stood  open  in  order 
to  provide  an  outlet  for  the  clouds  of  smoke  which 
rolled  from  the  kitchen,  where  Petrovitch' s  wife 
was  just  then  cooking  fish.  Akaki,  his  eyes 
smarting,  passed  through  the  kitchen  without  her 
seeing  him,  and  entered  the  room  where  the 
tailor  sat  on  a  large,  roughly  made,  wooden  table, 
his  legs  crossed  like  those  of  a  Turkish  pasha, 
and,  as  is  the  custom  of  tailors,  with  bare  feet. 
What  first  arrested  attention,  when  one  ap- 
proached him,  was  his  thumb  nail,  which  was  a 
little  misshapen  but  as  hard  and  strong  as  the 
shell  of  a  tortoise.  Round  his  neck  were  hung 
several  skeins  of  thread,  and  on  his  knees  lay  a 
tattered  coat.  For  some  minutes  he  had  been 
trying  in  vain  to  thread  his  needle.  He  was  first 
of  all  angry  with  the  gathering  darkness,  then 
with  the  thread. 

"Why  the  deuce  won't  you  go  in,  you 
worthless  scoundrel!  "  he  exclaimed. 

Akaki  saw  at  once  that  he  had  come  at  an 
inopportune  moment.  He  wished  he  had  found 
Petrovitch  at  a  more  favourable  time,  when  he 
was  enjoying  himself — when,  as  his  wife  ex- 
pressed it,  he  was  having  a  substantial  ration  of 


32  THE    MANTLE 

Brandy.  'At  sucK  times  the  tailor  was  extra- 
ordinarily ready  to  meet  his  customer's  proposals 
with  bows  and  gratitude  to  boot.  Sometimes 
indeed  his  wife  interfered  in  the  transaction,  and 
declared  that  he  was  drunk  and  promised  to  do 
the  work  at  much  too  low  a  price;  but  if  the 
customer  paid  a  trifle  more,  the  matter  was 
settled. 

Unfortunately  for  the  titular  councillor, 
Petrovitch  Ka'd  just  now  not  yet  touched  the 
brandy  flask.  At  such  moments  he  was  hard, 
obstinate,  and  ready  to  demand  an  exorbitant 
price. 

Akaki  foresaw  this  danger,  and  would  gladly 
have  turned  back  again,  but  it  was  already  too 
late.  The  tailor's  single  eye — for  he  was  one- 
eyed — had  already  noticed  him,  and  Akaki 
AkakievitcK  murmured  involuntarily  "Good 
day,  Petrovitch." 

"Welcome,  sir,"  answered  the  tailor,  and 
fastened  his  glance  on  the  titular  councillor's 
hand  to  see  what  he  had  in  it. 

"  I  come  just — merely — in  order — I  want — " 

We  must  Here  remark  that  the  modest  titular 
councillor  was  in  the  habit  of  expressing  his 
thoughts  only  by  prepositions,  adverbs,  or  par- 
ticles, which  never  yielded  a  distinct  meaning. 
If  the  matter  of  which  he  spoke  was  a  difficult 
one,  Ke  could  never  finish  the  sentence  he  had 
begun.     So  that  when  transacting  business,  he 


THE    MANTLE  33 

generally  entangled  himself  in  the  formula  '  *  Yes 

— it  is  indeed  true  that "     Then  he  would 

remain  standing  and  forget  what  he  wished  to 
say,  or  believe  that  he  had  said  it. 

"  What  do  you  want,  sir?  "  asked  Petrovitch, 
scrutinising  him  from  top  to  toe  with  a  searching 
look,  and  contemplating  his  collar,  sleeves,  coat, 
buttons — in  short  his  whole  uniform,  although 
he  knew  them  all  very  well,  having  made  them 
himself.  That  is  the  way  of  tailors  whenever 
they  meet  an  acquaintance. 

Then  Akaki  answered,  stammering  as  usual, 
'  *  I  want — Petrovitch — this  cloak — you  see — it  is 
still  quite  good,  only  a  little  dusty — and  therefore 
it  looks  a  little  old.  It  is,  however,  still  quite 
new,  only  that  it  is  worn  a  little — there  in  the 
back  and  here  in  the  shoulder — and  there  are 
three  quite  little  splits.  You  see  it  is  hardly 
worth  talking  about;  it  can  be  thoroughly  re- 
paired in  a  few  minutes.' ' 

Petrovitch  took  the  unfortunate  cloak,  spread 
it  on  the  table,  contemplated  it  in  silence,  and 
shook  his  head.  Then  he  stretched  his  hand 
towards  the  window-sill  for  his  snuff-box,  a  round 
one  with  the  portrait  of  a  general  on  the  lid.  1 
do  not  know  whose  portrait  it  was,  for  it  had  been 
accidentally  injured,  and  the  ingenious  tailor  had 
gummed  a  piece  of  paper  over  it. 

After  Petrovitch  had  taken  a  pinch  of  snuff,  he 
examined  the  cloak  again,  held  it  to  the  light,  and 

c 


34  THE    MANTLE 

once  more  shook  his  head.  Then  he  examined 
the  lining,  took  a  second  pinch  of  snuff,  and  at 
last  exclaimed,  "  No !  that  is  a  wretched  rag ! 
It  is  beyond  repair!  " 

At  these  words  Akaki's  courage  fell. 
What ! ' '  he  cried  in  the  querulous  tone  of  a 
child.  ''Can  this  hole  really  not  be  repaired? 
Look !  Petrovitch ;  there  are  only  two  rents,  and 
you  have  enough  pieces  of  cloth  to  mend  them 
with." 

' '  Yes,  I  have  enough  pieces  of  cloth ;  but  how 
should  I  sew  them  on?  The  stuff  is  quite  worn 
out;  it  won't  bear  another  stitch." 

"  Well,  can't  you  strengthen  it  with  another 
piece  of  cloth  ?  ' ' 

"  No,  it  won't  bear  anything  more;  cloth  after 
all  is  only  cloth,  and  in  its  present  condition  a 
gust  of  wind  might  blow  the  wretched  mantle  into 
tatters." 

"But  if  you  could  only  make  it  last  a  little 
longer,  do  you  see — really "  ; 

"No!"  answered  Petrovitch  decidedly. 
"  There  is  nothing  more  to  be  done  with  it;  it  is 
completely  worn  out.  It  would  be  better  if  you 
made  yourself  foot  bandages  out  of  it  for  the 
winter;  they  are  warmer  than  stockings.  It  was 
the  Germans  who  invented  stockings  for  their 
own  profit."  Petrovitch  never  lost  an  oppor- 
tunity of  having  a  hit  at  the  Germans.  "You 
must  certainly  buy  a  new  cloak,"  he  added. 


THE    MANTLE  35 

"A  new  cloak ?"  exclaimed  Akaki  Akakie- 
vitch,  and  it  grew  dark  before  his  eyes.  The 
tailor's  work-room  seemed  to  go  round  with  him, 
and  the  only  object  he  could  clearly  distinguish 
was  the  paper-patched  general's  portrait  on  the 
tailor's  snuff-box.  "A  new  cloak!"  he  mur- 
mured, as  though  half  asleep.  M  But  I  have  no 
money." 

"  Yes,  a  new  cloak,"  repeated  Petrovitch  with 
cruel  calmness. 

"  Well,  even  if  I  did  decide  on  it — how 
much " 

"  You  mean  how  much  would  it  cost?  " 

"Yes." 

"About  a  hundred  and  fifty  roubles," 
answered  the  tailor,  pursing  his  lips.  This 
diabolical  tailor  took  a  special  pleasure  in 
embarrassing  his  customers  and  watching  the 
expression  of  their  faces  with  his  squinting 
single  eye. 

1 '  A  hundred  and  fifty  roubles  for  a  cloak !  ■ ' 
exclaimed  Akaki  Akakievitch  in  a  tone  which 
sounded  like  an  outcry — possibly  the  first  he  had 
uttered  since  his  birth. 

"Yes,"  replied  Petrovitch.  "And  then  the 
marten-fur  collar  and  silk  lining  for  the  hood 
would  make  it  up  to  two  hundred  roubles." 

"Petrovitch,  L  adjure  you!"  said  Akaki 
Akakievitch  in  an  imploring  tone,  no  longer 
hearing  nor  wishing  to  hear  the  tailor's  words* 


36  THE    MANTLE 

"try  to  make  this  cloak  last  me  a  little 
longer." 

"No,  it  would  be  a  useless  waste  of  time  and 
work." 

After  this  answer,  Akaki  departed,  feeling 
quite  crushed;  while  Petrovitch,  with  his  lips 
firmly  pursed  up,  feeling  pleased  with  himself  for 
his  firmness  and  brave  defence  of  the  art  of 
tailoring,  remained  sitting  on  the  table. 

Meanwhile  Akaki  wandered  about  the  streets 
like  a  somnambulist,  at  random  and  without  an 
object.  "What  a  terrible  business!"  he  said 
to  himself.  "  Eeally,  I  could  never  have  be- 
lieved that  it  would  come  to  that.  No,"  he 
continued  after  a  short  pause,  "I  could  not 
have  guessed  that  it  would  come  to  that.  Now 
I  find  myself  in  a  completely  unexpected  situa- 
tion— in  a  difficulty  that " 

As  he  thus  continued  his  monologue,  instead 
of  approaching  his  dwelling,  he  went,  without 
noticing  it,  in  quite  a  wrong  direction.  A 
chimney-sweep  brushed  against  him  and  black- 
ened his  back  as  he  passed  by.  From  a  house 
where  building  was  going  on,  a  bucket  of  plaster 
of  Paris  was  emptied  on  his  head.  But  he  saw 
and  heard  nothing.  Only  when  he  collided  with 
a  sentry,  who,  after  he  had  planted  his  halberd 
beside  him,  was  shaking  out  some  snuff  from  his 
snuff-box  with  a  bony  hand,  was  he  startled  out 
of  his  reverie. 


THE    MANTLE  37 

"What  do  you  want?"  the  rough  guardian 
of  civic  order  exclaimed.  "  Can't  you  walk  on 
the  pavement  properly  ?  ■ ' 

This  sudden  address  at  last  completely  roused 
Akaki  from  his  torpid  condition.  He  collected 
his  thoughts,  considered  his  situation  clearly,  and 
began  to  take  counsel  with  himself  seriously  and 
frankly,  as  with  a  friend  to  whom  one  entrusts 
the  most  intimate  secrets. 

"  No !  "  he  said  at  last.  "  To-day  I  will  get 
nothing  from  Petrovitch — to-day  he  is  in  a  bad 
humour — perhaps  his  wife  has  beaten  him — I 
will  look  him  up  again  next  Sunday.  On  Satur- 
day evenings  he  gets  intoxicated;  then  the  next 
day  he  wants  a  pick-me-up — his  wife  gives  him 
no  money — I  squeeze  a  ten-kopeck  piece  into 
his  hand;  then  he  will  be  more  reasonable  and 
we  can  discuss  the  cloak  further.' ' 

Encouraged  by  these  reflections,  Akaki  waited 
patiently  till  Sunday.  On  that  day,  having  seen 
Petrovitch' s  wife  leave  the  house,  he  betook 
himself  to  the  tailor's  and  found  him,  as  he  had 
expected,  in  a  very  depressed  state  as  the  result 
of  his  Saturday's  dissipation.  But  hardly  had 
Akaki  let  a  word  fall  about  the  mantle  than  the 
diabolical  tailor  awoke  from  his  torpor  and 
exclaimed,  "  No,  nothing  can  be  done;  you  must 
certainly  buy  a  new  cloak." 

The  titular  councillor  pressed  a  ten-kopeck 
piece  into  his  hand. 


38  THE    MANTLE 

M  Thanks,  my  dear  friend/1  6aid  Petrovitch; 
'  that  will  get  me  a  pick-me-up,  and  I  will 
drink  your  health  with  it.  But  as  for  your  old 
mantle,  what  is  the  use  of  talking  about  it?  It 
isn't  worth  a  farthing.  Let  me  only  get  to 
work;  I  will  make  you  a  splendid  one,  I 
promise ! ' ' 

But  poor  Akaki  Akakievitch  still  importuned 
the  tailor  to  repair  his  old  one. 

"No,  and  again  no,"  answered  Petrovitch. 
11  It  is  quite  impossible.  Trust  me;  I  won't  take 
you  in.  I  will  even  put  silver  hooks  and  eye£ 
on  the  collar,  as  is  now  the  fashion." 

This  time  Akaki  saw  that  he  must  follow  the 
tailor's  advice,  and  again  all  his  courage  sank. 
He  must  have  a  new  mantle  made.  But  how 
should  he  pay  for  it?  He  certainly  expected  a 
Christmas  bonus  at  the  office ;  but  that  money  had 
been  allotted  beforehand.  He  must  buy  a  pair 
of  trousers,  and  pay  his  shoemaker  for  repairing 
two  pairs  of  boots,  and  buy  some  fresh  linen. 
Even  if,  by  an  unexpected  stroke  of  good  luck, 
the  director  raised  the  usual  bonus  from  forty  to 
fifty  roubles,  what  was  such  a  small  amount  in 
comparison  with  the  immense  sum  which  Petro- 
vitch demanded?  A  mere  drop  of  water  in  the 
sea. 

At  any  rate,  he  might  expect  that  Petrovitch, 
if  he  were  in  a  good  humour,  would  lower  the 
price  of  the  cloak  to  eighty  roubles;  but  where 


THE    MANTLE  39 

were  these  eighty  roubles  to  be  found?  Perhaps 
he  might  succeed  if  he  left  no  stone  unturned, 
in  raising  half  the  sum ;  but  he  saw  no  means  of 
procuring  the  other  half.  As  regards  the  first 
half,  he  had  been  in  the  habit,  as  often  as  he 
received  a  rouble,  of  placing  a  kopeck  in  a 
money-box.  At  the  end  of  each  half-year  he 
changed  these  copper  coins  for  silver.  He  had 
been  doing  this  for  some  time,  and  his  savings 
just  now  amounted  to  forty  roubles.  Thus  he 
already  had  half  the  required  sum.  But  the 
other  half ! 

Akaki  made  long  calculations,  and  at  last 
determined  that  he  must,  at  least  for  a  whole 
year,  reduce  some  of  his  daily  expenses.  He 
would  have  to  give  up  his  tea  in  the  evening,  and 
copy  his  documents  in  his  landlady's  room,  in 
order  to  economise  the  fuel  in  his  own.  He  also 
resolved  to  avoid  rough  pavements  as  much  as 
possible,  in  order  to  spare  his  shoes;  and  finally 
to  give  out  less  washing  to  the  laundress. 

At  first  he  found  these  deprivations  rather 
trying ;  but  gradually  he  got  accustomed  to  them, 
and  at  last  took  to  going  to  bed  without  any 
supper  at  all.  Although  his  body  suffered  from 
this  abstinence,  his  spirit  derived  all  the  richer 
nutriment  from  perpetually  thinking  about  his 
new  cloak.  From  that  time  it  seemed  as  though 
his  nature  had  completed  itself ;  as  though  he  had 
married  and  possessed  a  companion  on  his  life 


40  THE    MANTLE 

journey.  This  companion  was  the  thought  of  his 
new  cloak,  properly  wadded  and  lined. 

From  that  time  he  became  more  lively,  and 
his  character  grew  stronger,  like  that  of  a  man 
who  has  set  a  goal  before  himself  which  he  will 
reach  at  all  costs.  All  that  was  indecisive  and 
vague  in  his  gait  and  gestures  had  disappeared. 
A  new  fire  began  to  gleam  in  his  eyes,  and  in 
his  bold  dreams  he  sometimes  even  proposed  to 
himself  the  question  whether  he  should  not  have 
a  marten-fur  collar  made  for  his  coat. 

These  and  similar  thoughts  sometimes  caused 
him  to  be  absent-minded.  As  he  was  copying 
his  documents  one  day  he  suddenly  noticed  that 
he  had  made  a  slip.  "Ugh!  "  he  exclaimed, 
and  crossed  himself. 

At  least  once  a  month  he  went  to  Petrovitch  to 
discuss  the  precious  cloak  with  him,  and  to  settle 
many  important  questions,  e.g.  where  and  at 
what  price  he  should  buy  the  cloth,  and  what 
colour  he  should  choose. 

Each  of  these  visits  gave  rise  to  new  discus- 
sions, but  he  always  returned  home  in  a  happier 
mood,  feeling  that  at  last  the  day  must  come 
when  all  the  materials  would  have  been  bought 
and  the  cloak  would  be  lying  ready  to  put  on. 

This  great  event  happened  sooner  than  he  had 
hoped.  The  director  gave  him  a  bonus,  not  of 
forty  or  fifty,  but  of  five-and-sixty  roubles.  Had 
the  worthy  official  noticed  that  Akaki  needed  a 


THE    MANTLE  41 

new  mantle,  or  was  the  exceptional  amount  of 
the  gift  only  due  to  chance? 

However  that  might  be,  Akaki  was  now  richer 
by  twenty  roubles.  Such  an  access  of  wealth 
necessarily  hastened  his  important  undertaking. 
After  two  or  three  more  months  of  enduring 
hunger,  he  had  collected  his  eighty  roubles. 
His  heart,  generally  so  quiet,  began  to  beat 
violently ;  he  hastened  to  Petrovitch,  who  accom- 
panied him  to  a  draper's  shop.  There,  without 
hesitating,  they  bought  a  very  fine  piece  of  cloth. 
For  more  than  half  a  year  they  had  discussed  the 
matter  incessantly,  and  gone  round  the  shops 
inquiring  prices.  Petrovitch  examined  the  cloth, 
and  said  they  would  not  find  anything  better. 
For  the  lining  they  chose  a  piece  of  such  firm  and 
thickly  woven  linen  that  the  tailor  declared  it  was 
better  than  silk;  it  also  had  a  splendid  gloss  on 
it.  They  did  not  buy  marten  fur,  for  it  was  too 
dear,  but  chose  the  best  catskin  in  the  shop, 
which  was  a  very  good  imitation  of  the  former. 

It  took  Petrovitch  quite  fourteen  days  to  make 
the  mantle,  for  he  put  an  extra  number  of 
stitches  into  it.  He  charged  twelve  roubles  for 
his  work,  and  said  he  could  not  ask  less;  it  was 
all  sewn  with  silk,  and  the  tailor  smoothed  the 
sutures  with  his  teeth. 

At  last  the  day  came — I  cannot  name  it 
certainly,  but  it  assuredly  was  the  most  solemn 
in  Akaki's   life — when   the   tailor   brought   the 


42  THE    MANTLE 

cloak.  He  brought  it  early  in  the  morning, 
before  the  titular  councillor  started  for  his  office. 
He  could  not  have  come  at  a  more  suitable 
moment,  for  the  cold  had  again  begun  to  be 
very  severe. 

Petrovitch  entered  the  room  with  the  digni- 
fied mien  of  an  important  tailor.  His  face  wore 
a  peculiarly  serious  expression,  such  as  Akaki 
had  never  seen  on  it.  He  was  fully  conscious 
of  his  dignity,  and  of  the  gulf  which  separates 
the  tailor  who  only  repairs  old  clothes  from  the 
artist  who  makes  new  ones. 

The  cloak  had  been  brought  wrapped  up  in  a 
large,  new,  freshly  washed  handkerchief,  which 
the  tailor  carefully  opened,  folded,  and  placed 
in  his  pocket.  Then  he  proudly  took  the  cloak 
in  both  hands  and  laid  it  on  Akaki  Akakievitch's 
shoulders.  He  pulled  it  straight  behind  to  see 
how  it  hung  majestically  in  its  whole  length. 
Finally  he  wished  to  see  the  effect  it  made  when 
unbuttoned.  Akaki,  however,  wished  to  try 
the  sleeves,  which  fitted  wonderfully  well.  In 
brief,  the  cloak  was  irreproachable,  and  its  fit 
and  cut  left  nothing  to  be  desired. 

While  the  tailor  was  contemplating  his  work, 
he  did  not  forget  to  say  that  the  only  reason  he 
had  charged  so  little  for  making  it,  was  that  he 
had  only  a  low  rent  to  pay  and  had  known  Akaki 
Akakievitch  for  a  long  time;  he  declared  that 
any  tailor  who  lived  on  the   Nevski  Prospect 


THE    MANTLE  43 

would  have  charged  at  least  five-and-sixty 
roubles  for  making  up  such  a  cloak. 

The  titular  councillor  did  not  let  himself  be 
involved  in  a  discussion  on  the  subject.  He 
thanked  him,  paid  him,  and  then  sallied  forth  on 
his  way  to  the  office. 

Petrovitch  went  out  with  him,  and  remained 
standing  in  the  street  to  watch  Akaki  as  long  as 
possible  wearing  the  mantle;  then  he  hurried 
through  a  cross-alley  and  came  into  the  main 
street  again  to  catch  another  glimpse  of  him. 

Akaki  went  on  his  way  in  high  spirits.  Every 
moment  he  was  acutely  conscious  of  having 
a  new  cloak  on,  and  smiled  with  sheer  self- 
complacency.  His  head  was  filled  with  only 
two  ideas :  first  that  the  cloak  was  warm,  and 
secondly  that  it  was  beautiful.  Without  notic- 
ing anything  on  the  road,  he  marched  straight  to 
the  chancellery,  took  off  his  treasure  in  the  hall, 
and  solemnly  entrusted  it  to  the  porter's  care. 

I  do  not  know  how  the  report  spread  in  the 
office  that  Akaki' s  old  cloak  had  ceased  to  exist. 
All  his  colleagues  hastened  to  see  his  splendid 
new  one,  and  then  began  to  congratulate  him 
so  warmly  that  he  at  first  had  to  smile  with 
self-satisfaction,  but  finally  began  to  feel  em- 
barrassed. 

But  how  great  was  his  surprise  when  his  cruel 
colleagues  remarked  that  he  should  formally 
11  handsel"  his  cloak  by  giving  them  a  feast! 


44  THE    MANTLE 

Poor  Akaki  was  so  disconcerted  and  taken  aback, 
that  he  did  not  know  what  to  answer  nor  how  to 
excuse  himself.  He  stammered  out,  blushing, 
that  the  cloak  was  not  so  new  as  it  appeared ;  it 
was  really  second-hand. 

One  of  his  superiors,  who  probably  wished  to 
show  that  he  was  not  too  proud  of  his  rank  and 
title,  and  did  not  disdain  social  intercourse  with 
his  subordinates,  broke  in  and  said,  "Gentle- 
men !  Instead  of  Akaki  Akakievitch,  I  will  in- 
vite you  to  a  little  meal.  Come  to  tea  with 
me  this  evening.  To-day  happens  to  be  my 
birthday/' 

All  the  others  thanked  him  for  his  kind 
proposal,  and  joyfully  accepted  his  invitation. 
Akaki  at  first  wished  to  decline,  but  was  told 
that  to  do  so  would  be  grossly  impolite  and 
unpardonable,  so  he  reconciled  himself  to  the 
inevitable.  Moreover,  he  felt  a  certain  satisfac- 
tion at  the  thought  that  the  occasion  would  give 
him  a  new  opportunity  of  displaying  his  cloak  in 
the  streets.  This  whole  day  for  him  was  like  a 
festival-day.  In  the  cheerfullest  possible  mood 
he  returned  home,  took  off  his  cloak,  and  hung 
it  up  on  the  wall  after  once  more  examining  the 
cloth  and  the  lining.  Then  he  took  out  his  old 
one  in  order  to  compare  it  with  Petrovitch's 
masterpiece.  His  looks  passed  from  one  to 
the  other,  and  he  thought  to  himself,  smiling, 
"What  a  difference!" 


THE    MANTLE  45 

He  ate  his  Supper  cheerfully,  and  after  he 
had  finished,  did  not  sit  down  as  usual  to  copy 
documents.  No;  he  lay  down,  like  a  Sybarite, 
on  the  sofa  and  waited.  When  the  time  came, 
he  made  his  toilette,  took  his  cloak,  and  went 
out. 

I  cannot  say  where  was  the  house  of  the 
superior  official  who  so  graciously  invited  his 
subordinates  to  tea.  My  memory  begins  to  grow 
weak,  and  the  innumerable  streets  and  houses 
of  St  Petersburg  go  round  so  confusedly  in  my 
head  that  I  have  difficulty  in  finding  my  way 
about  them.  So  much,  however,  is  certain: 
that  the  honourable  official  lived  in  a  very  fine 
quarter  of  the  city,  and  therefore  very  far  from 
Akaki  Akakievitch's  dwelling. 

At  first  the  titular  councillor  traversed  several 
badly  lit  streets  which  seemed  quite  empty;  but 
the  nearer  he  approached  his  superior's  house, 
the  more  brilliant  and  lively  the  streets  became. 
He  met  many  people,  among  whom  were 
elegantly  dressed  ladies,  and  men  with  beaver- 
skin  collars.  The  peasants'  sledges,  with  their 
wooden  seats  and  brass  studs,  became  rarer; 
while  now  every  moment  appeared  skilled  coach- 
men with  velvet  caps,  driving  lacquered  sleighs 
covered  with  bearskins,  and  fine  carriages. 

At  last  he  reached  the  house  whither  he  had 
been  invited.  His  host  lived  in  a  first-rate  style ; 
a  lamp  hung  before  his  door,  and  he  occupied 


46  THE    MANTLE 

the  whole  of  the  second  story.  As  Akaki 
entered  the  vestibule,  he  saw  a  long  row  of 
galoshes ;  on  a  table  a  samovar  was  smoking  and 
hissing;  many  cloaks,  some  of  them  adorned 
with  velvet  and  fur  collars,  hung  on  the  wall. 
In  the  adjoining  room  he  heard  a  confused  noise, 
which  assumed  a  more  decided  character  when 
a  servant  opened  the  door  and  came  out  bearing 
a  tray  full  of  empty  cups,  a  milk-jug,  and  a 
basket  of  biscuits.  Evidently  the  guests  had 
been  there  some  time  and  had  already  drunk 
their  first  cup  of  tea. 

After  hanging  his  cloak  on  a  peg,  Akaki 
approached  the  room  in  which  his  colleagues, 
smoking  long  pipes,  were  sitting  round  the  card- 
table  and  making  a  good  deal  of  noise.  He 
entered  the  room,  but  remained  standing  by  the 
door,  not  knowing  what  to  do ;  but  his  colleagues 
greeted  him  with  loud  applause,  and  all  hastened 
into  the  vestibule  to  take  another  look  at  his 
cloak.  This  excitement  quite  robbed  the  good 
titular  councillor  of  his  composure;  but  in  his 
simplicity  of  heart  he  rejoiced  at  the  praises 
which  were  lavished  on  his  precious  cloak. 
Soon  afterwards  his  colleagues  left  him  to  him- 
self and  resumed  their  whist  parties. 

Akaki  felt  much  embarrassed,  and  did  not 
know  what  to  do  with  his  feet  and  hands. 
Finally  he  sat  down  by  the  players ;  looked  now 
at  their  faces  and  now  at  the  cards;  then  he 


THE    MANTLE  47 

yawned  and  remembered  that  it  was  long  past 
his  usual  bedtime.  He  made  an  attempt  to  go, 
but  they  held  him  back  and  told  him  that  he 
could  not  do  so  without  drinking  a  glass  of 
champagne  on  what  was  for  him  such  a  memor- 
able day. 

Soon  supper  was  brought.  It  consisted  of 
cold  veal,  cakes,  and  pastry  of  various  kinds, 
accompanied  by  several  bottles  of  champagne. 
Akaki  was  obliged  to  drink  two  glasses  of  it,  and 
found  everything  round  him  take  on  a  more 
cheerful  aspect.  But  he  could  not  forget  that  it 
was  already  midnight  and  that  he  ought  to  have 
been  in  bed  long  ago.  From  fear  of  being  kept 
back  again,  he  slipped  furtively  into  the  vesti- 
bule, where  he  was  pained  to  find  his  cloak  lying 
on  the  ground.  He  carefully  shook  it,  brushed 
it,  put  it  on,  and  went  out. 

The  street-lamps  were  still  alight.  Some  of 
the  small  ale-houses  frequented  by  servants  and 
the  lower  classes  were  still  open,  and  some  had 
just  been  shut;  but  by  the  beams  of  light  which 
shone  through  the  chinks  of  the  doors,  it  was 
easy  to  see  that  there  were  still  people  inside, 
probably  male  and  female  domestics,  who  were 
quite  indifferent  to  their  employers'  interests. 

Akaki  Akakievitch  turned  homewards  in  a 
cheerful  mood.  Suddenly  he  found  himself  in 
a  long  street  where  it  was  very  quiet  by  day  and 
still  more  so  at  night.     The  surroundings  were 


48  THE    MANTLE 

very  dismal.     Only  here  and  there  hung  a  lamp 
which  threatened  to  go  out  for  want  of  oil ;  there 
were  long  rows  of  wooden  houses  with  wooden 
fences,  but  no  sign  of  a  living  soul.     Only  the 
snow  in  the  street  glimmered  faintly  in  the  dim 
light  of  the  half-extinguished  lanterns,  and  the 
little  houses  looked  melancholy  in  the  darkness. 
Akaki  went  on  till  the  street  opened  into  an 
enormous  square,  on  the  other  side  of  which  the 
houses  were  scarcely  visible,  and  which  looked 
like  a  terrible  desert.     At  a  great  distance — God 
knows  where ! — glimmered  the  light  in  a  sentry- 
box,  which  seemed  to  stand  at  the  end  of  the 
world.     At  the  same  moment  Akaki' s  cheerful 
mood  vanished.     He  went  in  the  direction  of  the 
light  with  a  vague  sense  of  depression,  as  though 
some  mischief  threatened  him.     On  the  way  he 
kept  looking  round  him  with  alarm.     The  huge, 
melancholy  expanse  looked  to  him  like  a  sea. 
11  No,"  he  thought  to  himself,  "  I  had  better  not 
look  at  it ' ' ;  and  he  continued  his  way  with  his 
eyes  fixed  on  the  ground.     When  he  raised  them 
again  he  suddenly  saw  just  in  front  of  him  several 
men  with  long  moustaches,  whose  faces  he  could 
not  distinguish.     Everything  grew  dark  before 
his  eyes,  and  his  heart  seemed  to  be  constricted. 
* '  That  is  my  cloak  ! '  *  shouted  one  of  the  men, 
and  seized  him  by  the  collar.     Akaki  tried  to 
call  for  help.     Another  man  pressed   a   great 
bony  fist  on  his  mouth,  and  said  to  him,  ' '  Just 


THE    MANTLE  49 

try  to  scream  again!  "  At  the  same  moment 
the  unhappy  titular  councillor  felt  the  cloak 
snatched  away  from  him,  and  simultaneously 
received  a  kick  which  stretched  him  senseless 
in  the  snow.  A  few  minutes  later  he  came  to 
himself  and  stood  up;  but  there  was  no  longer 
anyone  in  sight.  Bobbed  of  his  cloak,  and  feel- 
ing frozen  to  the  marrow,  he  began  to  shout  with 
all  his  might;  but  his  voice  did  not  reach  the  end 
of  the  huge  square.  Continuing  to  shout,  he 
ran  with  the  rage  of  despair  to  the  sentinel  in  the 
sentry-box,  who,  leaning  on  his  halberd,  asked 
him  why  the  deuce  he  was  making  such  a  hellish 
noise  and  running  so  violently. 

When  Akaki  reached  the  sentinel,  he  accused 
him  of  being  drunk  because  he  did  not  see  that 
passers-by  were  robbed  a  short  distance  from  his 
sentry-box. 

"I  saw  you  quite  well/'  answered  the  sen- 
tinel, * '  in  the  middle  of  the  square  with  two 
men;  I  thought  you  were  friends.  It  is  no  good 
getting  so  excited.  Go  to-morrow  to  the  police 
inspector;  he  will  take  up  the  matter,  have  the 
thieves  searched  for,  and  make  an  examina- 
tion." 

Akaki  saw  there  was  nothing  to  be  done  but 
to  go  home.  He  reached  his  dwelling  in  a  state 
of  dreadful  disorder,  his  hair  hanging  wildly 
over  his  forehead,  and  his  clothes  covered 
with  snc-w.     When  his  old  landlady  heard  him 

J) 


50  THE    MANTLE 

knocking  violently  at  the  door,  she  sprang  up 
aiid  hastened  thither,  only  half-dressed;  but  at 
the  sight  of  Akaki  started  back  in  alarm.  When 
he  told  her  what  had  happened,  she  clasped  her 
hands  together  and  said,  "  You  should  not  go  to 
the  police  inspector,  but  to  the  municipal  Super- 
intendent of  the  district.  The  inspector  will  put 
you  off  with  fine  words,  and  do  nothing;  but  I 
have  known  the  Superintendent  for  a  long  time. 
My  former  cook,  Anna,  is  now  in  his  service, 
and  I  often  see  him  pass  by  under  our  windows. 
He  goes  to  church  on  all  the  festival-days,  and 
one  sees  at  once  by  his  looks  that  he  is  an  honest 
man." 

After  hearing  this  eloquent  recommendation, 
Akaki  retired  sadly  to  his  room.  Those  who  can 
picture  to  themselves  such  a  situation  will  under- 
stand what  sort  of  a  night  he  passed.  As  early 
as  possible  the  next  morning  he  went  to  the 
Superintendent's  house.  The  servants  told  him 
that  he  was  still  asleep.  At  ten  o'clock  he 
returned,  only  to  receive  the  same  reply.  At 
twelve  o'clock  the  Superintendent  had  gone  out. 

About  dinner-time  the  titular  councillor  called 
again,  but  the  clerks  asked  him  in  a  severe  tone 
what  was  his  business  with  their  superior.  Then 
for  the  first  time  in  his  life  Akaki  displayed  an 
energetic  character.  He  declared  that  it  was 
absolutely  necessary  for  him  to  speak  with  the 
Superintendent  on  an  official  matter,  and  that 


THE    MANTLE  51 

anyone  who  ventured  to  put  difficulties  in  his 
way  would  have  to  pay  dearly  for  it. 

This  left  them  without  reply.  One  of  the 
clerks  departed,  in  order  to  deliver  his  message. 
When  Akaki  was  admitted  to  the  Superinten- 
dent's presence,  the  latter's  way  of  receiving  his 
story  was  somewhat  singular.  Instead  of  con- 
fining himself  to  the  principal  matter — the  theft, 
he  asked  the  titular  councillor  how  he  came  to 
be  out  so  late,  and  whether  he  had  not  been  in 
suspicious  company. 

Taken  aback  by  such  a  question,  Akaki  did 
not  know  what  to  answer,  and  went  away  with- 
out knowing  whether  any  steps  would  be  taken 
in  the  matter  or  not. 

The  whole  day  he  had  not  been  in  his  office — 
a  perfectly  new  event  in  his  life.  The  next  day 
he  appeared  there  again  with  a  pale  face  and 
restless  aspect,  in  his  old  cloak,  which  looked 
more  wretched  than  ever.  When  his  colleagues 
heard  of  his  misfortune,  some  were  cruel  enough 
to  laugh;  most  of  them,  however,  felt  a  sincere 
sympathy  with  him,  and  started  a  subscription 
for  his  benefit;  but  this  praiseworthy  undertak- 
ing had  only  a  very  insignificant  result,  because 
these  same  officials  had  been  lately  called  upon 
to  contribute  to  two  other  subscriptions — in  the 
first  case  to  purchase  a  portrait  of  their  director, 
and  in  the  second  to  buy  a  work  which  a  friend 
of  his  had  published, 


52  THE    MANTLE 

One  of  them,  who  felt  sincerely  sorry  for 
Akaki,  gave  him  some  good  advice  for  want  of 
something  better.  He  told  him  it  was  a  waste 
of  time  to  go  again  to  the  Superintendent, 
because  even  in  case  that  this  official  succeeded 
in  recovering  the  cloak,  the  police  would  keep  it 
till  the  titular  councillor  had  indisputably  proved 
that  he  was  the  real  owner  of  it.  Akaki' s  friend 
suggested  to  him  to  go  to  a  certain  important 
personage,  who  because  of  his  connection  with 
the  authorities  could  expedite  the  matter. 

In  his  bewilderment,  Akaki  resolved  to  follow 
this  advice.  It  was  not  known  what  position 
this  personage  occupied,  nor  how  high  it  really 
was;  the  only  facts  known  were  that  he  had 
only  recently  been  placed  in  it,  and  that  there 
must  be  still  higher  personages  than  himself,  as 
he  was  leaving  no  stone  unturned  in  order  to  get 
promotion.  When  he  entered  his  private  room, 
he  made  his  subordinates  wait  for  him  on  the 
stairs  below,  and  no  one  had  direct  access  to 
him.  If  anyone  called  with  a  request  to  see  him, 
the  secretary  of  the  board  informed  the  Govern- 
ment secretary,  who  in  his  turn  passed  it  on  to 
a  higher  official,  and  the  latter  informed  the 
important  personage  himself. 

That  is  the  way  business  is  carried  on  in  our 
Holy  Eussia.  In  the  endeavour  to  resemble  the 
higher  officials,  everyone  imitates  the  manners 
of  his  superiors.     Not  long  ago  a  titular  coun- 


THE    MANTLE  53 

cillor,  who  was  appointed  to  the  headship  of  a 
little  office,  immediately  placed  over  the  door 
of  one  of  his  two  tiny  rooms  the  inscription 
11  Council-chamber."  Outside  it  were  placed 
servants  with  red  collars  and  lace-work  on  their 
coats,  in  order  to  announce  petitioners,  and  to 
conduct  them  into  the  chamber  which  was  hardly 
large  enough  to  contain  a  chair. 

But  let  us  return  to  the  important  personage 
in  question.  His  way  of  carrying  things  on  was 
dignified  and  imposing,  but  a  trifle  complicated. 
His  system  might  be  summed  up  in  a  single 
word — i(  severity.' '  This  word  he  would  repeat 
in  a  sonorous  tone  three  times  in  succession,  and 
the  last  time  turn  a  piercing  look  on  the  person 
with  whom  he  happened  to  be  speaking.  He 
might  have  spared  himself  the  trouble  of  dis- 
playing so  much  disciplinary  energy;  the  ten 
officials  who  were  under  his  command  feared 
him  quite  sufficiently  without  it.  As  soon  as 
they  were  aware  of  his  approach,  they  would  lay 
down  their  pens,  and  hasten  to  station  them- 
selves in  a  respectful  attitude  as  he  passed  by. 
In  converse  with  his  subordinates,  he  preserved 
a  stiff,  unbending  attitude,  and  generally  con- 
fined himself  to  such  expressions  as  ' '  What  do 
you  want?  Do  you  know  with  whom  you  are 
speaking?     Do  you  consider  who  is  in  front  of 

you?" 

For  the  rest,  he  was  a  good-natured  man, 


54  THE    MANTLE 

friendly  and  amiable  with  his  acquaintances. 
But  the  title  of  "District-Superintendent"  had 
turned  his  head.  Since  the  time  when  it  had 
been  bestowed  upon  him,  he  lived  for  a  great 
part  of  the  day  in  a  kind  of  dizzy  self-intoxica- 
tion. Among  his  equals,  however,  he  recovered 
his  equilibrium,  and  then  showed  his  real 
amiability  in  more  than  one  direction;  but  as 
soon  as  he  found  himself  in  the  society  of  anyone 
of  less  rank  than  himself,  he  entrenched  himself 
in  a  severe  taciturnity.  This  situation  was  all 
the  more  painful  for  him  as  he  was  quite  aware 
that  he  might  have  passed  his  time  more  agree- 
ably. 

All  who  watched  him  at  such  moments  per- 
ceived clearly  that  he  longed  to  take  part  in  an 
interesting  conversation,  but  that  the  fear  of 
displaying  some  unguarded  courtesy,  of  appear- 
ing too  confidential,  and  thereby  doing  a  deadly 
injury  to  his  dignity,  held  him  back.  In  order 
to  avoid  such  a  risk,  he  maintained  an  unnatural 
reserve,  and  only  spoke  from  time  to  time  in 
monosyllables.  He  had  driven  this  habit  to  such 
a  pitch  that  people  called  him  "The  Tedious," 
and  the  title  was  well  deserved. 

Such  was  the  person  to  whose  aid  Akaki 
wished  to  appeal.  The  moment  at  which  he 
came  seemed  expressly  calculated  to  flatter  the 
Superintendent's  vanity,  and  accordingly  to  help 
forward  the  titular  councillor's  cause. 


THE    MANTLE  55 

The  high  personage  was  seated  in  his  office^ 
talking  cheerfully  with  an  old  friend  whom  he 
had  not  seen  for  several  years,  when  he  was  told 
that  a  gentleman  named  Akakievitch  begged  for 
the  honour  of  an  interview. 

"Who  is  the  man?"  asked  the  Superinten- 
dent in  a  contemptuous  tone. 

"An  official/'  answered  the  servant. 

1  '  He  must  wait.  I  have  no  time  to  receive 
him  now." 

The  high  personage  lied;  there  was  nothing 
in  the  way  of  his  granting  the  desired  audience. 
His  friend  and  himself  had  already  quite  ex- 
hausted various  topics  of  conversation.  Many 
long,  embarrassing  pauses  had  occurred,  during 
which  they  had  lightly  tapped  each  other  on  the 
shoulder,  saying,  "  So  it  was,  you  see." 

"Yes,  Stepan." 

But  the  Superintendent  refused  to  receive  the 
petitioner,  in  order  to  show  his  friend,  who  had 
quitted  the  public  service  and  lived  in  the 
country,  his  own  importance,  and  how  officials 
must  wait  in  the  vestibule  till  he  chose  to  receive 
them. 

At  last,  after  they  had  discussed  various  other 
subjects  with  other  intervals  of  silence,  during 
which  the  two  friends  leaned  back  in  their  chairs 
and  blew  cigarette  smoke  in  the  air,  the  Super- 
intendent seemed  suddenly  to  remember  that 
someone  had  sought  an  interview  with  him.     He 


56  THE    MANTLE 

called  the  secretary,  who  stood  with  a  roll  of 
papers  in  his  hand  at  the  door,  and  told  him  to 
admit  the  petitioner. 

When  he  saw  Akaki  approaching  with  his 
humble  expression,  wearing  his  shabby  old 
uniform,  he  turned  round  suddenly  towards  him 
and  said  ' '  What  do  you  want  ?'**  in  a  severe 
voice,  accompanied  by  a  vibrating  intonation 
which  at  the  time  of  receiving  his  promotion  he 
had  practised  before  the  looking-glass  for  eight 
days. 

The  modest  Akaki  was  quite  taken  aback  by 
his  harsh  manner;  however,  he  made  an  effort 
to  recover  his  composure,  and  to  relate  how  his 
cloak  had  been  stolen,  but  did  not  do  so  without 
encumbering  his  narrative  with  a  mass  of  super- 
fluous detail.  He  added  that  he  had  applied  to 
His  Excellence  in  the  hope  that  through  his 
making  a  representation  to  the  police  inspector, 
or  some  other  high  personage,  the  cloak  might 
be  traced.  l 

The  Superintendent  found  Akaki' s  method  of 
procedure  somewhat  unofficial.  "Ah,  sir,"  he 
said,  "don't  you  know  what  steps  you  ought  to 
take  in  such  a  case?  Don't  you  know  the  proper 
procedure?  You  should  have  handed  in  your 
petition  at  the  chancellery.  This  in  due  course 
would  have  passed  through  the  hands  of  the  chief 
clerk  and  director  of  the  bureau.  It  would 
then  have  been  brought  before  my  secretary, 


THE    MANTLE  57 

who  would  have  made  a  communication  to 
you." 

"  Allow  me,"  replied  Akaki,  making  a  strenu- 
ous effort  to  preserve  the  remnants  of  his 
presence  of  mind,  for  he  felt  that  the  perspira- 
tion stood  on  his  forehead,  "  allow  me  to  remark 
to  Your  Excellence  that  I  ventured  to  trouble 
you  personally  in  this  matter  because  secretaries 
— secretaries  are  a  hopeless  kind  of  people." 

1 '  What !  How !  Is  it  possible  ? ' '  exclaimed 
the  Superintendent.  "  How  could  you  say  such 
a  thing?  Where  have  you  got  your  ideas  from? 
It  is  disgraceful  to  see  young  people  so  rebellious 
towards  their  superiors."  In  his  official  zeal 
the  Superintendent  overlooked  the  fact  that  the 
titular  councillor  was  well  on  in  the  fifties,  and 
that  the  word  '  *  young ' '  could  only  apply  to  him 
conditionally,  i.e.  in  comparison  with  a  man  of 
seventy.  "Do  you  also  know,"  he  continued, 
4 '  with  whom  you  are  speaking  ?  Do  you  con- 
sider before  whom  you  are  standing?  Do  you 
consider,  I  ask  you,  do  you  consider  ?  "  As  he 
spoke,  he  stamped  his  foot,  and  his  voice  grew 
deeper. 

Akaki  was  quite  upset — nay,  thoroughly 
frightened;  he  trembled  and  shook  and  could 
hardly  remain  standing  upright.  Unless  one  of 
the  office  servants  had  hurried  to  help  him,  he 
would  have  fallen  to  the  ground.  As  it  was,  he 
was  dragged  out  almost  unconscious. 


58  THE    MANTLE 

But  the  Superintendent  was  quite  delighted  at 
the  effect  he  had  produced.  It  exceeded  all  his 
expectations,  and  filled  with  satisfaction  at  the 
fact  that  his  words  made  such  an  impression  on  a 
middle-aged  man  that  he  lost  consciousness,  he 
cast  a  side-glance  at  his  friend  to  see  what  effect 
the  scene  had  produced  oil  him.  His  self- 
satisfaction  was  further  increased  when  he  ob- 
served that  his  friend  also  was  moved,  and  looked 
at  him  half -timidly. 

Akaki  had  no  idea  how  he  got  down  the  stairs 
and  crossed  the  street,  for  he  felt  more  dead  than 
alive.  In  his  whole  life  he  had  never  been  so 
scolded  by  a  superior  official,  let  alone  one  whom 
he  had  never  seen  before. 

He  wandered  in  the  storm  which  raged  without 
taking  the  least  care  of  himself,  nor  sheltering 
himself  on  the  side-walk  against  its  fury.  The 
wind,  which  blew  from  all  sides  and  out  of  all  the 
narrow  streets,  caused  him  to  contract  inflamma- 
tion of  the  throat.  When  he  reached  home  he 
was  unable  to  speak  a  word,  and  went  straight 
to  bed. 

Such  was  the  result  of  the  Superintendent's 
lecture. 

The  next  day  Akaki  had  a  violent  fever. 
Thanks  to  the  St  Petersburg  climate,  his  illness 
developed  with  terrible  rapidity.  When  the 
doctor  came,  he  saw  that  the  case  was  already 
hopeless ;  he  felt  his  pulse  and  ordered  him  some 


THE    MANTLE  59 

poultices,  merely  in  order  that  he  should  not  die 
without  some  medical  help,  and  declared  at  once 
that  he  had  only  two  days  to  live.  After  giving 
this  opinion,  he  said  to  Akaki's  landlady,  V  There 
is  no  time  to  be  lost ;  order  a  pine  coffin,  for  an 
oak  one  would  be  too  expensive  for  this  poor 
man." 

Whether  trie  titular  councillor  heard  these 
words,  whether  they  excited  him  and  made  him 
lament  his  tragic  lot,  no  one  ever  knew,  for  he 
was  delirious  all  the  time.  Strange  pictures 
passed  incessantly  through  his  weakened  brain. 
At  one  time  he  saw  Petrovitch  the  tailor  and 
asked  him  to  make  a  cloak  with  nooses  attached 
for  the  thieves  who  persecuted  him  in  bed,  and 
begged  his  old  landlady  to  chase  away  the 
robbers  who  were  hidden  under  his  coverlet. 
At  another  time  he  seemed  to  be  listening  to  the 
Superintendent's  severe  reprimand,  and  asking 
his  forgiveness.  Then  he  uttered  such  strange 
and  confused  remarks  that  the  old  woman 
crossed  herself  in  alarm.  She  had  never  heard 
anything  of  the  kind  in  her  life,  and  these  ravings 
astonished  her  all  the  more  because  the  expres- 
sion "Your  Excellency  "  constantly  occurred 
in  them.  Later  on  he  murmured  wild  discon- 
nected words,  from  which  it  could  only  be 
gathered  that  his  thoughts  were  continually 
revolving  round  a  cloak. 

At  last  Akaki  breathed  his  last.     Neither  his 


60  THE    MANTLE 

room  nor  his  cupboard  were  officially  sealed  up, 
for  the  simple  reason  that  he  had  no  heir  and  left 
nothing  behind  him  but  a  bundle  of  goose-quills, 
a  notebook  of  white  paper,  three  pairs  of  socks, 
some  trouser  buttons,  and  his  old  coat. 

Into  whose  possession  did  these  relics  pass? 
Heaven  only  knows !  The  writer  of  this  narra- 
tive has  never  inquired. 

Akaki  was  wrapped  in  his  shroud,  and  laid 
to  rest  in  the  churchyard.  The  great  city  of 
St  Petersburg  continued  its  life  as  though  he 
had  never  existed.  Thus  disappeared  a  human 
creature  who  had  never  possessed  a  patron  or 
friend,  who  had  never  elicited  real  hearty 
sympathy  from  anyone,  nor  even  aroused  the 
curiosity  of  the  naturalists,  though  they  are  most 
eager  to  subject  a  rare  insect  to  microscopic 
examination. 

Without  a  complaint  he  had  borne  the  scorn 
and  contempt  of  his  colleagues;  he  had  pro- 
ceeded on  his  quiet  way  to  the  grave  without 
anything  extraordinary  happening  to  him — only 
towards  the  end  of  his  life  he  had  been  joyfully 
excited  by  the  possession  of  a  new  cloak,  and 
had  then  been  overthrown  by  misfortune. 

Some  days  after  his  conversation  with  the 
Superintendent,  his  superior  in  the  chancellery, 
where  no  one  knew  what  had  become  of  him, 
sent  an  official  to  his  house  to  demand  his 
presence.     The  official  returned  with  the  news 


THE    MANTLE  61 

that  no  one  would  see  the  titular  councillor  any 
more. 

"Why?"  asked  all  the  clerks. 

"  Because  he  was  buried  four  days  ago." 

In  such  a  manner  did  Akaki's  colleagues  hear 
of  his  death. 

The  next  day  his  place  was  occupied  by  an 
official  of  robuster  fibre,  a  man  who  did  not 
trouble  to  make  so  many  fair  transcripts  of  state 
documents. 


It  seems  as  though  Akaki's  story  ended  here, 
and  that  there  was  nothing  more  to  be  said 
of  him;  but  the  modest  titular  councillor  was 
destined  to  attract  more  notice  after  his  death 
than  during  his  life,  and  our  tale  now  assumes  a 
somewhat  ghostly  complexion. 

One  day  there  spread  in  St  Petersburg  the 
report  that  near  the  Katinka  Bridge  there 
appeared  every  night  a  spectre  in  a  uniform  like 
that  of  the  chancellery  officials;  that  he  was 
searching  for  a  stolen  cloak,  and  stripped  all 
passers-by  of  their  cloaks  without  any  regard 
for  rank  or  title.  It  mattered  not  whether  they 
were  lined  with  wadding,  mink,  cat,  otter,  bear, 
or  beaverskin;  he  took  all  he  could  get  hold  of. 
One  of  the  titular  councillor's  former  colleagues 
had  seen  the  ghost,  and  quite  clearly  recognised 
Akaki.     He  ran  as  hard  as  he  could  and  m^n- 


62  THE    MANTLE 

aged  to  escape,  but  had  seen  him  shaking  his  fist 
in  the  distance.  Everywhere  it  was  reported 
that  councillors,  and  not  only  titular  councillors 
but  also  state-councillors,  had  caught  serious 
colds  in  their  honourable  backs  on  account  of 
these  raids. 

The  police  adopted  all  possible  measures  in 
order  to  get  this  ghost  dead  or  alive  into  their 
power,  and  to  inflict  an  exemplary  punishment 
on  him ;  but  all  their  attempts  were  vain. 

One  evening,  however,  a  sentinel  succeeded 
in  getting  hold  of  the  malefactor  just  as  he 
was  trying  to  rob  a  musician  of  his  cloak.  The 
sentinel  summoned  with  all  the  force  of  his  lungs 
two  of  his  comrades,  to  whom  he  entrusted  the 
prisoner  while  he  sought  for  his  snuff-box  in 
order  to  bring  some  life  again  into  his  half-frozen 
nose.  Probably  his  snuff  was  so  strong  that 
even  a  ghost  could  not  stand  it.  Scarcely  had 
the  sentinel  thrust  a  grain  or  two  up  his  nostrils 
than  the  prisoner  began  to  sneeze  so  violently 
that  a  kind  of  mist  rose  before  the  eyes  of  the 
sentinels.  While  the  three  were  rubbing  their 
eyes,  the  prisoner  disappeared.  Since  that  day, 
all  the  sentries  were  so  afraid  of  the  ghost  that 
they  did  not  even  venture  to  arrest  the  living 
but  shouted  to  them  from  afar  •'  Go  on!  Go 
on!" 

Meanwhile  the  ghost  extended  his  depreda- 
tions to  the  other  side  of  the  Katinka  Bridge,  and 


THE    MANTLE  63 

spread  dismay  and  alarm  in  the  whole  of  the 
quarter. 

But  now  we  must  return  to  the  Superinten- 
dent, who  is  the  real  origin  of  our  fantastic  yet 
so  veracious  story.  First  of  all  we  must  do  him 
the  justice  to  state  that  after  Akaki's  departure 
he  felt  a  certain  sympathy  for  him.  He  was  by 
no  means  without  a  sense  of  justice — no,  he 
possessed  various  good  qualities,  but  his  infatu- 
ation about  his  title  hindered  him  from  showing 
his  good  side.  When  his  friend  left  him,  hia 
thoughts  began  to  occupy  themselves  with  the 
unfortunate  titular  councillor,  and  from  that 
moment  onwards  he  saw  him  constantly  in  his 
mind's  eye,  crushed  by  the  severe  reproof  which 
had  been  administered  to  him.  This  image  so 
haunted  him  that  at  last  one  day  he  ordered  one 
of  his  officials  to  find  out  what  had  become  of 
Akaki,  and  whether  anything  could  be  done  for 
him. 

When  the  messenger  returned  with  the  news 
that  the  poor  man  had  died  soon  after  that 
interview,  the  Superintendent  felt  a  pang  in  his 
conscience,  and  remained  the  whole  day  ab- 
sorbed in  melancholy  brooding. 

In  order  to  banish  his  unpleasant  sensations, 
he  went  in  the  evening  to  a  friend's  house,  where 
he  hoped  to  find  pleasant  society  and  what  was 
the  chief  thing,  some  other  officials  of  his  own 
rank,  so  that  he  would  not  be  obliged  to  feel 


64  THE    MANTLE 

bored.  And  in  fact  he  did  succeed  in  throwing 
off  his  melancholy  thoughts  there;  he  unbent 
and  became  lively,  took  an  active  part  in  the 
conversation,  and  passed  a  very  pleasant  even- 
ing. At  supper  he  drank  two  glasses  of  cham- 
pagne, which,  as  everyone  knows,  is  an  effective 
means  of  heightening  one's  cheerfulness. 

As  he  sat  in  his  sledge,  wrapped  in  his  mantle, 
on  his  way  home,  his  mind  was  full  of  pleasant 
reveries.  He  thought  of  the  society  in  which 
he  had  passed  such  a  cheerful  evening,  and  of 
all  the  excellent  jokes  with  which  he  had  made 
them  laugh.  He  repeated  some  of  them  to 
himself  half -aloud,  and  laughed  at  them  again. 

From  time  to  time,  however,  he  was  disturbed 
in  this  cheerful  mood  by  violent  gusts  of  wind, 
which  from  some  corner  or  other  blew  a  quantity 
of  snowflakes  into  his  face,  lifted  the  folds  of  his 
cloak,  and  made  it  belly  like  a  sail,  so  that  he 
had  to  exert  all  his  strength  to  hold  it  firmly  on 
his  shoulders.  Suddenly  he  felt  a  powerful  hand 
seize  him  by  the  collar.  He  turned  round,  per- 
ceived a  short  man  in  an  old,  shabby  uniform, 
and  recognised  with  terror  Akaki's  face,  which 
wore  a  deathly  pallor  and  emaciation. 

The  titular  councillor  opened  his  mouth,  from 
which  issued  a  kind  of  corpse-like  odour,  and 
with  inexpressible  fright  the  Superintendent 
heard  him  say,  "At  last  I  have  you — by  the 
goljar!     I    need    your    cloak.     You    dial    pot 


THE    MANTLE  65 

trouble  about  me  when  I  was  in  distress;  you 
thought  it  necessary  to  reprimand  me.  Now 
give  me  your  cloak.' ' 

The  high  dignitary  nearly  choked.  In  his 
office,  and  especially  in  the  presence  of  his 
subordinates,  he  was  a  man  of  imposing 
manners.  He  only  needed  to  fix  his  eye  on  one 
of  them  and  they  all  seemed  impressed  by  his 
pompous  bearing.  But,  as  is  the  case  with 
many  such  officials,  all  this  was  only  outward 
show;  at  this  moment  he  felt  so  upset  that  he 
seriously  feared  for  his  health.  Taking  off  his 
cloak  with  a  feverish,  trembling  hand,  he  handed 
it  to  Akaki,  and  called  to  his  coachman,  M  Drive 
home  quickly.5' 

When  the  coachman  heard  this  voice,  which 
did  not  sound  as  it  usually  did,  and  had  often 
been  accompanied  by  blows  of  a  whip,  he  bent 
his  head  cautiously  and  drove  on  apace. 

Soon  afterwards  the  Superintendent  found 
himself  at  home.  Cloakless,  he  retired  to  his 
room  with  a  pale  face  and  wild  looks,  and  had 
such  a  bad  night  that  on  the  following  morning 
his  daughter  exclaimed  "  Father,  are  you  ill?  M 
But  he  said  nothing  of  what  he  had  seen,  though 
a  very  deep  impression  had  been  made  on  him. 
From  that  day  onwards  he  no  longer  addressed 
to  his  subordinates  in  a  violent  tone  the  words, 
"Do  you  know  with  whom  you  are  speaking? 
Do  you  know  who  is  standing  before  you? 9t     Or 


66  THE    MANTLE 

if  it  ever  did  happen  that  he  spoke  to  them  in  a 
domineering  tone,  it  was  not  till  he  had  first 
listened  to  what  they  had  to  say. 

Strangely  enough,  from  that  time  the  spectre 
never  appeared  again.  Probably  it  was  the 
Superintendent's  cloak  which  he  had  been  seek- 
ing so  earnestly;  now  he  had  it  and  did  not 
want  anything  more.  Various  persons,  however, 
asserted  that  this  formidable  ghost  was  still  to  be 
seen  in  other  parts  of  the  city.  A  sentinel  went 
so  far  as  to  say  that  he  had  seen  him  with  his  own 
eyes  glide  like  a  furtive  shadow  behind  a  house. 
But  this  sentinel  was  of  such  a  nervous  disposi- 
tion that  he  had  been  chaffed  about  his  timidity 
more  than  once.  Since  he  did  not  venture  to 
seize  the  flitting  shadow,  he  stole  after  it  in  the 
darkness;  but  the  shadow  turned  round  and 
shouted  at  him  "  What  do  you  want?  "  shaking 
an  enormous  fist,  such  as  no  man  had  ever 
possessed. 

■ '  I  want  nothing, ' '  answered  the  sentry, 
quickly  retiring. 

This  shadow,  however,  was  taller  than  the 
ghost  of  the  titular  councillor,  and  had  an  enor- 
mous moustache.  He  went  with  great  strides 
towards  the  Obuchoff  Bridge,  and  disappeared  in 
the  darkness. 


THE    NOSE 
I 

On  the  25th  March,  18 — ,  a  very  strange  occur- 
rence took  place  in  St  Petersburg.  On  the 
Ascension  Avenue  there  lived  a  barber  of  the 
name  of  Ivan  Jakovlevitch.  He  had  lost  his 
family  name,  and  on  his  sign-board,  on  which 
was  depicted  the  head  of  a  gentleman  with  one 
cheek  soaped,  the  only  inscription  to  be  read 
was,  "Blood-letting  done  here." 

On  this  particular  morning  he  awoke  pretty 
early.  Becoming  aware  of  the  smell  of  fresh- 
baked  bread,  he  sat  up  a  little  in  bed,  and  saw 
his  wife,  who  had  a  special  partiality  for  coffee, 
in  the  act  of  taking  some  fresh-baked  bread  out 
of  the  oven. 

"To-day,  Prasskovna  Ossipovna,"  he  said, 
M  I  do  not  want  any  coffee ;  I  should  like  a  fresh 
loaf  with  onions/' 

*  *  The  blockhead  may  eat  bread  only  as  far  as 
I  am  concerned/ '  said  his  wife  to  herself;  u  then 
I  shall  have  a  chance  of  getting  some  coffee." 
And  she  threw  a  loaf  on  the  table. 

67 


68  THE    NOSE 

For  the  sake  of  propriety,  Ivan  Jakovlevitch 
drew  a  coat  over  his  shirt,  sat  down  at  the  table, 
shook  out  some  salt  for  himself,  prepared  two 
onions,  assumed  a  serious  expression,  and  began 
to  cut  the  bread.  After  he  had  cut  the  loaf  in 
two  halves,  he  looked,  and  to  his  great  astonish- 
ment saw  something  whitish  sticking  in  it.  He 
carefully  poked  round  it  with  his  knife,  and  felt 
it  with  his  finger. 

■ '  Quite  firmly  fixed !  ' "  he  murmured  in  his 
beard.     "  What  can  it  be?" 

He  put  in  his  finger,  and  drew  out — a  nose  ! 

Ivan  Jakovlevitch  at  first  let  his  hands  fall 
from  sheer  astonishment;  then  he  rubbed  his 
eyes  and  began  to  feel  it.  A  nose,  an  actual 
nose;  and,  moreover,  it  seemed  to  be  the  nose 
of  an  acquaintance !  Alarm  and  terror  were 
depicted  in  Ivan's  face;  but  these  feelings  were 
slight  in  comparison  with  the  disgust  which  took 
possession  of  his  wife. 

' '  Whose  nose  have  you  cut  off,  you 
monster ?"  she  screamed,  her  face  red  with 
anger.  "  You  scoundrel !  You  tippler  !  I  my- 
self will  report  you  to  the  police!  Such  a 
rascal!  Many  customers  have  told  me  that 
while  you  were  shaving  them,  you  held  them  so 
tight  by  the  nose  that  they  could  hardly  sit  still.' ' 

But  Ivan  Jakovlevitch  was  more  dead  than 
alive ;  he  saw  at  once  that  this  nose  could  belong 
to  no  other  than  to  Kovaloff,  a  member  of  the 


THE    NOSE  69 

Municipal  Committee  whom  he  shaved  every 
Sunday  and  Wednesday. 

' '  Stop,  Prasskovna  Ossipovna  !  I  will  wrap 
it  in  a  piece  of  cloth  and  place  it  in  the  corner. 
There  it  may  remain  for  the  present;  later  on  I 
will  take  it  away." 

"No,  not  there!  Shall  I  endure  an  ampu- 
tated nose  in  my  room?  You  understand 
nothing  except  how  to  strop  a  razor.  You  know 
nothing  of  the  duties  and  obligations  of  a  respect- 
able man.  You  vagabond !  You  good-for- 
nothing  !  Am  I  to  undertake  all  responsibility 
for  you  at  the  police-office?  Ah,  you  soap- 
smearer  !  You  blockhead  !  Take  it  away  where 
you  like,  but  don't  let  it  stay  under  my 
eyes!  " 

Ivan  Jakovlevitch  stood  there  flabbergasted. 
He  thought  and  thought,  and  knew  not  what  he 
thought. 

'  '  The  devil  knows  how  that  happened ! ' '  he 
said  at  last,  scratching  his  head  behind  his  ear. 
"  Whether  I  came  home  drunk  last  night  or  not, 
I  really  don't  know;  but  in  all  probability  this 
is  a  quite  extraordinary  occurrence,  for  a  loaf 
is  something  baked  and  a  nose  is  something 
different.  I  don't  understand  the  matter  at 
all."  And  Ivan  Jakovlevitch  was  silent.  The 
thought  that  the  police  might  find  him  in  unlaw- 
ful possession  of  a  nose  and  arrest  him,  robbed 
him  of  all  presence  of  mind.     Already  he  began 


70  THE    NOSE 

to  have  visions  of  a  red  collar  with  silver  braid 
and  of  a  sword — and  he  trembled  all  over. 

At  last  he  finished  dressing  himself,  and  to  the 
accompaniment  of  the  emphatic  exhortations  of 
his  spouse,  he  wrapped  up  the  nose  in  a  cloth  and 
issued  into  the  street. 

He  intended  to  lose  it  somewhere — either  at 
somebody's  door,  or  in  a  public  square,  or  in  a 
narrow  alley;  but  just  then,  in  order  to  complete 
his  bad  luck,  he  was  met  by  an  acquaintance, 
who  showered  inquiries  upon  him.  "  Hullo, 
Ivan  Jakovlevitch !  Whom  are  you  going  to 
shave  so  early  in  the  morning ?"  etc.,  so  that 
he  could  find  no  suitable  opportunity  to  do  what 
he  wanted.  Later  on  he  did  let  the  nose  drop, 
but  a  sentry  bore  down  upon  him  with  his 
halberd,  and  said,  ' '  Look  out !  You  have  let 
something  drop ! ' '  and  Ivan  Jakovlevitch  was 
obliged  to  pick  it  up  and  put  it  in  his  pocket. 

A  feeling  of  despair  began  to  take  possession 
of  him ;  all  the  more  as  the  streets  became  more 
thronged  and  the  merchants  began  to  open  their 
shops.  At  last  he  resolved  to  go  to  the  Isaac 
Bridge,  where  perhaps  he  might  succeed  in 
throwing  it  into  the  Neva. 

But  my  conscience  is  a  little  uneasy  that  I  have 
not  yet  given  any  detailed  information  about 
Ivan  Jakovlevitch,  an  estimable  man  in  many 
ways. 

Like  every  honest  Eussian  tradesman,   Ivan 


THE    NOSE  71 

Jakovlevitch  was  a  terrible  drunkard,  and 
although  he  shaved  other  people's  faces  every 
day,  his  own  was  always  unshaved.  His  coat 
(he  never  wore  an  overcoat)  was  quite  mottled, 
i.e.  it  had  been  black,  but  become  brownish- 
yellow;  the  collar  was  quite  shiny,  and  instead 
of  the  three  buttons,  only  the  threads  by  which 
they  had  been  fastened  were  to  be  seen. 

Ivan  Jakovlevitch  was  a  great  cynic,  and  when 
Kovaloff,  the  member  of  the  Municipal  Commit- 
tee, said  to  him,  as  was  his  custom  while  being 
shaved,  ' '  Your  hands  always  smell,  Ivan  Jakov- 
levitch ! ! '  the  latter  answered,  ' '  What  do  they 
smell  of?"  "I  don't  know,  my  friend,  but 
they  smell  very  strong."  Ivan  Jakovlevitch 
after  taking  a  pinch  of  snuff  would  then,  by  way 
of  reprisals,  set  to  work  to  soap  him  on  the  cheek, 
the  upper  lip,  behind  the  ears,  on  the  chin,  and 
everywhere. 

This  worthy  man  now  stood  on  the  Isaac 
Bridge.  At  first  he  looked  round  him,  then  he 
leant  on  the  railings  of  the  bridge,  as  though  he 
wished  to  look  down  and  see  how  many  fish  were 
swimming  past,  and  secretly  threw  the  nose, 
wrapped  in  a  little  piece  of  cloth,  into  the 
water.  He  felt  as  though  a  ton  weight  had  been 
lifted  off  him,  and  laughed  cheerfully.  Instead, 
however,  of  going  to  shave  any  officials,  he 
turned  his  steps  to  a  building,  the  sign-board  of 
which  bore  the  legend  "  Teas  served  here,"  in 


72  THE    NOSE 

order  to  have  a  glass  of  punch,  when  suddenly 
he  perceived  at  the  other  end  of  the  bridge  a 
police  inspector  of  imposing  exterior,  with  long 
whiskers,  three-cornered  hat,  and  sword  hanging 
at  his  side.  He  nearly  fainted;  but  the  police 
inspector  beckoned  to  him  with  his  hand  and 
said,  "Come  here,  my  dear  sir." 

Ivan  Jakovlevitch,  knowing  how  a  gentleman 
should  behave,  took  his  hat  off  quickly,  went 
towards  the  police  inspector  and  said,  "  I  hope 
you  are  in  the  best  of  health." 

"Never  mind  my  health.  Tell  me,  my 
friend,  why  you  were  standing  on  the  bridge." 

' '  By  heaven,  gracious  sir,  I  was  on  the  way 
to  my  customers,  and  only  looked  down  to  see  if 
the  river  was  flowing  quickly." 

"  That  is  a  lie !  You  won't  get  out  of  it  like 
that.     Confess  the  truth." 

"I  am  willing  to  shave  Your  Grace  two  or 
even  three  times  a  week  gratis,"  answered  Ivan 
Jakovlevitch.  l 

"No,  my  friend,  don't  put  yourself  out! 
Three  barbers  are  busy  with  me  already,  and 
reckon  it  a  high  honour  that  I  let  them  show  me 
their  skill.  Now  then,  out  with  it !  What  were 
you  doing  there  ?  ' ' 

Ivan  Jakovlevitch  grew  pale.  But  here  the 
strange  episode  vanishes  in  mist,  and  what 
further  happened  is  not  known. 


THE    NOSE  73 


II 

Kovaloff,  the  member  of  the  Municipal  Com- 
mittee, awoke  fairly  early  that  morning,  and 
made  a  droning  noise — "  Brr  !  Brr  !  " — through 
his  lips,  as  he  always  did,  though  he  could  not 
say  why.  He  stretched  himself,  and  told  his 
valet  to  give  him  a  little  mirror  which  was  on  the 
table.  He  wished  to  look  at  the  heat-boil  which 
had  appeared  on  his  nose  the  previous  evening; 
but  to  his  great  astonishment,  he  saw  that  instead 
of  his  nose  he  had  a  perfectly  smooth  vacancy  in 
his  face.  Thoroughly  alarmed,  he  ordered  some 
water  to  be  brought,  and  rubbed  his  eyes  with  a 
towel.  Sure  enough,  he  had  no  longer  a  nose! 
Then  he  sprang  out  of  bed,  and  shook  himself 
violently !  No,  no  nose  any  more  !  He  dressed 
himself  and  went  at  once  to  the  police  superin- 
tendent. 

But  before  proceeding  further,  we  must  cer- 
tainly give  the  reader  some  information  about 
Kovaloff,  so  that  he  may  know  what  sort  of  a  man 
this  member  of  the  Municipal  Committee  really 
was.  These  committee-men,  who  obtain  that 
title  by  means  of  certificates  of  learning,  must 
not  be  compared  with  the  committee-men  ap- 
pointed for  the  Caucasus  district,  who  are  of 
quite  a  different  kind.     The  learned  committee- 


74  THE    NOSE 

man — but  Eussia  is  such  a  wonderful  country 
that  when  one  committee-man  is  spoken  of  all 
the  others  from  Eiga  to  Kamschatka  refer  it  to 
themselves.  The  same  is  also  true  of  all  other 
titled  officials.  Kovaloff  had  been  a  Caucasian 
committee-man  two  years  previously,  and  could 
not  forget  that  he  had  occupied  that  position; 
but  in  order  to  enhance  his  own  importance, 
he  never  called  himself  ' '  committee-man  ' '  but 
"  Major.' ' 

"Listen,  my  dear/'  he  used  to  say  when  he 
met  an  old  woman  in  the  street  who  sold  shirt- 
fronts  ;  '  *  go  to  my  house  in  Sadovaia  Street  and 
ask  *  Does  Major  Kovaloff  live  here?'  Any 
child  can  tell  you  where  it  is." 

Accordingly  we  will  call  him  for  the  future 
Major  Kovaloff.  It  was  his  custom  to  take  a  daily 
walk  on  the  Neffsky  Avenue.  The  collar  of  his 
shirt  was  always  remarkably  clean  and  stiff.  He 
wore  the  same  style  of  whiskers  as  those  that  are 
worn  by  governors  of  districts,  architects,  and 
regimental  doctors ;  in  short,  all  those  who  have 
full  red  cheeks  and  play  a  good  game  of  whist. 
These  whiskers  grow  straight  across  the  cheek 
towards  the  nose. 

Major  Kovaloff  wore  a  number  of  seals,  on 
some  of  which  were  engraved  armorial  bearings, 
and  others  the  names  of  the  days  of  the  week. 
He  had  come  to  St  Petersburg  with  the  view  of 
obtaining    some  position   corresponding  to  his 


THE    NOSE  75 

rank,  if  possible  that  of  vice-governor  of  a 
province ;  but  he  was  prepared  to  be  content  with 
that  of  a  bailiff  in  some  department  or  other. 
He  was,  moreover,  not  disinclined  to  marry,  but 
only  such  a  lady  who  could  bring  with  her  a 
dowry  of  two  hundred  thousand  roubles.  Ac- 
cordingly, the  reader  can  judge  for  himself  what 
his  sensations  were  when  he  found  in  his  face, 
instead  of  a  fairly  symmetrical  nose,  a  broad, 
flat  vacancy. 

To  increase  his  misfortune,  not  a  single 
droshky  was  to  be  seen  in  the  street,  and  so  he 
was  obliged  to  proceed  on  foot.  He  wrapped 
himself  up  in  his  cloak,  and  held  his  handker- 
chief to  his  face  as  though  his  nose  bled.  "  But 
perhaps  it  is  all  only  my  imagination ;  it  is  impos- 
sible that  a  nose  should  drop  off  in  such  a 
silly  way,"  he  thought,  and  stepped  into  a 
confectioner's  shop  in  order  to  look  into  the 
mirror. 

Fortunately  no  customer  was  in  the  shop;  only 
small  shop-boys  were  cleaning  it  out,  and  putting 
chairs  and  tables  straight.  Others  with  sleepy 
faces  were  carrying  fresh  cakes  on  trays,  and 
yesterday's  newspapers  stained  with  coffee  were 
still  lying  about.  "  Thank  God  no  one  is 
here!  "  he  said  to  himself.  "Now  I  can  look 
at  myself  leisurely." 

He  stepped  gingerly  up  to  a  mirror  and  looked. 

"  What  an  infernal  face !  "  he  exclaimed,  and 


76  THE    NOSE 

spat  with  disgust.  "If  there  were  only  some- 
thing there  instead  of  the  nose,  but  there  is 
absolutely  nothing." 

He  bit  his  lips  with  vexation,  left  the  confec- 
tioner's, and  resolved,  quite  contrary  to  his  habit, 
neither  to  look  nor  smile  at  anyone  on  the  street. 
Suddenly  he  halted  as  if  rooted  to  the  spot  before 
a  door,  where  something  extraordinary  hap- 
pened. A  carriage  drew  up  at  the  entrance ;  the 
carriage  door  was  opened,  and  a  gentleman  in 
uniform  came  out  and  hurried  up  the  steps. 
How  great  was  Kovaloff's  terror  and  astonish- 
ment when  he  saw  that  it  was  his  own  nose ! 

At  this  extraordinary  sight,  everything  seemed 
to  turn  round  with  him.  He  felt  as  though  he 
could  hardly  keep  upright  on  his  legs;  but, 
though  trembling  all  over  as  though  with  fever, 
he  resolved  to  wait  till  the  nose  should  return 
to  the  carriage.  After  about  two  minutes  the 
nose  actually  came  out  again.  It  wore  a  gold- 
embroidered  uniform  with  a  stiff,  high  collar, 
trousers  of  chamois  leather,  and  a  sword  hung 
at  its  side.  The  hat,  adorned  with  a  plume, 
showed  that  it  held  the  rank  of  a  state-councillor. 
It  was  obvious  that  it  was  paying  "  duty-calls." 
It  looked  round  on  both  sides,  called  to  the 
coachman  "Drive  on,"  and  got  into  the  car- 
riage, which  drove  away. 

Poor  Kovaloff  nearly  lost  his  reason.  He  did 
not  know  what  to  think  of  this  extraordinary 


THE    NOSE  77 

procedure.  And  indeed  how  was  it  possible 
that  the  nose,  which  only  yesterday  he  had  on 
his  face,  and  which  could  neither  walk  nor  drive, 
should  wear  a  uniform.  He  ran  after  the  car- 
riage, which  fortunately  had  stopped  a  short  way 
off  before  the  Grand  Bazar  of  Moscow.  He 
hurried  towards  it  and  pressed  through  a  crowd 
of  beggar-women  with  their  faces  bound  up, 
leaving  only  two  openings  for  the  eyes,  over 
whom  he  had  formerly  so  often  made  merry. 

There  were  only  a  few  people  in  front  of  the 
Bazar.  Kovaloff  was  so  agitated  that  he  could 
decide  on  nothing,  and  looked  for  the  nose 
everywhere.  At  last  he  saw  it  standing  before 
a  shop.  It  seemed  half  buried  in  its  stiff  collar, 
and  was  attentively  inspecting  the  wares  dis- 
played. 

4 'How  can  I  get  at  it?"  thought  Kovaloff. 
"Everything — the  uniform,  the  hat,  and  so  on 
— show  that  it  is  a  state-councillor.  How  the 
deuce  has  that  happened?" 

He  began  to  cough  discreetly  near  it,  but  the 
nose  paid  him  not  the  least  attention. 

"Honourable  sir,"  said  Kovaloff  at  last, 
plucking  up  courage,  "  honourable  sir." 

"  What  do  you  want?"  asked  the  nose,  and 
turned  round. 

'  It  seems  to  me  strange,  most  respected  sir- — 
you  should  know  where  you  belong — and  I  find 
you  all  of  a  sudden — where?    Judge  yourself." 


78  THE    NOSE 

-"Pardon  me,  I  do  not  understand  what  you 
are  talking  about.  Explain  yourself  more  dis- 
tinctly." 

How  shall  I  make  my  meaning  plainer  to 
him?"  Then  plucking  up  fresh  courage,  he 
continued,  "Naturally — besides  I  am  a  Major. 
You  must  admit  it  is  not  befitting  that  I  should 
go  about  without  a  nose.  An  old  apple-woman 
on  the  Ascension  Bridge  may  carry  on  her  busi- 
ness without  one,  but  since  I  am  on  the  look  out 
for  a  post;  besides  in  many  houses  I  am  ac- 
quainted with  ladies  of  high  position — Madame 
Tchektyriev,  wife  of  a  state-councillor,  and 
many    others.     So   you    see — I   do   not   know, 

honourable  sir,  what  you M  (here  the  Major 

shrugged  his  shoulders).  "Pardon  me;  if  one 
regards  the  matter  from  the  point  of  view  of 
duty  and  honour — you  will  yourself  under- 
stand  M 

"I  understand  nothing,"  answered  the  nose. 
1 '  I  repeat,  please  explain  yourself  more  dis- 
tinctly." 

1  *  Honourable  sir, ' '  said  Kovaloff  with 
dignity,  "  I  do  not  know  how  I  am  to  understand 
your  words.  It  seems  to  me  the  matter  is  as 
clear  as  possible.  Or  do  you  wish — but  you  are 
after  all  my  own  nose ! ' ' 

The  nose  looked  at  the  Major  and  wrinkled  its 
forehead.  "There  you  are  wrong,  respected 
sir;  I  am  myself.     Besides,  there  can  be  no  close 


THE    NOSE  79 

relations  between  us.  To  judge  by  the  buttons 
of  your  uniform,  you  must  be  in  quite  a  different 
department  to  mine."  So  saying,  the  nose 
turned  away. 

Kovaloff  was  completely  puzzled;  he  did  not 
know  what  to  do,  and  still  less  what  to  think. 
At  this  moment  he  heard  the  pleasant  rustling  of 
a  lady's  dress,  and  there  approached  an  elderly 
lady  wearing  a  quantity  of  lace,  and  by  her  side 
her  graceful  daughter  in  a  white  dress  which  set 
off  her  slender  figure  to  advantage,  and  wearing 
a  light  straw  hat.  Behind  the  ladies  marched  a 
tall  lackey  with  long  whiskers. 

Kovaloff  advanced  a  few  steps,  adjusted  his 
cambric  collar,  arranged  his  seals  which  hung 
by  a  little  gold  chain,  and  with  smiling  face  fixed 
his  eyes  on  the  graceful  lady,  who  bowed  lightly 
like  a  spring  flower,  and  raised  to  her  brow 
her  little  white  hand  with  transparent  fingers. 
He  smiled  still  more  when  he  spied  under  the 
brim  of  her  hat  her  little  round  chin,  and  part 
of  her  cheek  faintly  tinted  with  rose-colour. 
But  suddenly  he  sprang  back  as  though  he  had 
been  scorched.  He  remembered  that  he  had 
nothing  but  an  absolute  blank  in  place  of  a  nose, 
and  tears  started  to  his  eyes.  He  turned  round 
in  order  to  tell  the  gentleman  in  uniform  that  he 
was  only  a  state-councillor  in  appearance,  but 
really  a  scoundrel  and  a  rascal,  and  nothing  else 
but  his  own  nose;  but  the  nose  was  no  longer 


80  THE    NOSE 

there.  He  had  had  time  to  go,  doubtless  in 
order  to  continue  his  visits. 

His  disappearance  plunged  Kovaloff  into 
despair.  He  went  back  and  stood  for  a  moment 
under  a  colonnade,  looking  round  him  on  all 
sides  in  hope  of  perceiving  the  nose  somewhere. 
He  remembered  very  well  that  it  wore  a  hat  with 
a  plume  in  it  and  a  gold-embroidered  uniform; 
but  he  had  not  noticed  the  shape  of  the  cloak, 
nor  the  colour  of  the  carriages  and  the  horses, 
nor  even  whether  a  lackey  stood  behind  it,  and, 
if  so,  what  sort  of  livery  he  wore.  Moreover, 
so  many  carriages  were  passing  that  it  would 
have  been  difficult  to  recognise  one,  and  even  if 
he  had  done  so,  there  would  have  been  no  means 
of  stopping  it. 

The  day  was  fine  and  sunny.  An  immense 
crowd  was  passing  to  and  fro  in  the  Neffsky 
Avenue;  a  variegated  stream  of  ladies  flowed 
along  the  pavement.  There  was  his  acquain- 
tance, the  Privy  Councillor,  whom  he  was  accus- 
tomed to  style  "General,"  especially  when 
strangers  were  present.  There  was  Iarygin,  his 
intimate  friend  who  always  lost  in  the  evenings 
at  whist;  and  there  another  Major,  who  had 
obtained  the  rank  of  committee-man  in  the 
Caucasus,  beckoned  to  him. 

"  Go  to  the  deuce !  M  said  Kovaloff  sotto  voce. 
' '  Hi !  coachman,  drive  me  straight  to  the  super- 
intendent of  police."     So  saying,  he  got  into  a 


THE    NOSE  81 

droshky  and  continued  to  shout  all  the  time  to 
the  coachman  "  Drive  hard!  " 

"  Is  the  police  superintendent  at  home?"  he 
asked  on  entering  the  front  hall. 

:c  No,  sir,"  answered  the  porter,  "  he  has  just 
gone  out." 

"Ah,  just  as  I  thought!" 

4  Yes,"  continued  the  porter,  "he  has  only 
just  gone  out;  if  you  had  been  a  moment 
earlier  you  would  perhaps  have  caught 
him." 

Kovaloff,  still  holding  his  handkerchief  to  His 
face,  re-entered  the  droshky  and  cried  in  a 
despairing  voice  "  Drive  on !  " 

"Where?"  asked  the  coachman. 

"Straight  on!" 

"  But  how?  There  are  cross-roads  here. 
Shall  I  go  to  the  right  or  the  left?  " 

This  question  made  Kovaloff:  reflect.  In  his 
situation  it  was  necessary  to  have  recourse  to  the 
police ;  not  because  the  affair  had  anything  to  do 
with  them  directly  but  because  they  acted  more 
promptly  than  other  authorities.  As  for  de- 
manding any  explanation  from  the  department 
to  which  the  nose  claimed  to  belong,  it  would, 
he  felt,  be  useless,  for  the  answers  of  that 
gentleman  showed  that  he  regarded  nothing  as 
sacred,  and  he  might  just  as  likely  have  lied  in 
this  matter  as  in  saying  that  he  had  never  seen 
Kovalofi, 

V 


82  THE    NOSE 

But  just  as  he  was  about  to  order  the  coach- 
man to  drive  to  the  police-station,  the  idea 
occurred  to  him  that  this  rascally  scoundrel  who, 
at  their  first  meeting,  had  behaved  so  disloyally 
towards  him,  might,  profiting  by  the  delay,  quit 
the  city  secretly ;  and  then  all  his  searching  would 
be  in  vain,  or  might  last  over  a  whole  month. 
Finally,  as  though  visited  with  a  heavenly  in- 
spiration, he  resolved  to  go  directly  to  an  adver- 
tisement office,  and  to  advertise  the  loss  of  his 
nose,  giving  all  its  distinctive  characteristics  in 
detail,  so  that  anyone  who  found  it  might  bring 
it  at  once  to  him,  or  at  any  rate  inform  him 
where  it  lived.  Having  decided  on  this  course, 
he  ordered  the  coachman  to  drive  to  the  adver- 
tisement office,  and  all  the  way  he  continued  to 
punch  him  in  the  back — ' '  Quick,  scoundrel ! 
quick !  " 

"  Yes,  sir !  "  answered  the  coachman,  lashing 
his  shaggy  horse  with  the  reins. 

At  last  they  arrived,  and  Kovaloff,  out  of 
breath,  rushed  into  a  little  room  where  a  grey- 
haired  official,  in  an  old  coat  and  with  spectacles 
on  his  nose,  sat  at  a  table  holding  his  pen 
between  his  teeth,  counting  a  heap  of  copper 
coins. 

"Who  takes  in  the  advertisements  here?" 
exclaimed  Kovaloff. 

"At  your  service,  sir,"  answered  the  grey- 
haired  functionary,  looking  up  and  then  fasten- 


THE    NOSE  83 

ing  his  eyes  again  on  the  heap  of  coins  before 
him. 

"I  wish  to  place  an  advertisement  in  your 
paper " 

"Have  the  kindness  to  wait  a  minute/ ■ 
answered  the  official,  putting  down  figures  on 
paper  with  one  hand,  and  with  the  other  moving 
two  balls  on  his  calculating-frame. 

A  lackey,  whose  silver-laced  coat  showed  that 
he  served  in  one  of  the  houses  of  the  nobility, 
was  standing  by  the  table  with  a  note  in  his  hand, 
and  speaking  in  a  lively  tone,  by  way  of  showing 
himself  sociable.  "  Would  you  believe  it,  sir, 
this  little  dog  is  really  not  worth  twenty-four 
kopecks,  and  for  my  own  part  I  would  not  give  a 
farthing  for  it;  but  the  countess  is  quite  gone 
upon  it,  and  offers  a  hundred  roubles'  reward  to 
anyone  who  finds  it.  To  tell  you  the  truth,  the 
tastes  of  these  people  are  very  different  from 
ours;  they  don't  mind  giving  five  hundred  or  a 
thousand  roubles  for  a  poodle  or  a  pointer, 
provided  it  be  a  good  one." 

The  official  listened  with  a  serious  air  while 
counting  the  number  of  letters  contained  in  the 
note.  At  either  side  of  the  table  stood  a  number 
of  housekeepers,  clerks  and  porters,  carrying 
notes.  The  writer  of  one  wished  to  sell  a 
barouche,  which  had  been  brought  from  Paris 
in  1814  and  had  been  very  little  used;  others 
wanted  to  dispose  of  a  strong  droshky  which 


84  THE    NOSE 

wanted  one  spring,  a  spirited  horse  seventeen 
years  old,  and  so  on.  The  room  where  these 
people  were  collected  was  very  small,  and  the  air 
was  very  close ;  but  Kovaloff  was  not  affected  by 
it,  for  he  had  covered  his  face  with  a  handker- 
chief, and  because  his  nose  itself  was  heaven 
knew  where. 

"  Sir,  allow  me  to  ask  you — I  am  in  a  great 
hurry,"  he  said  at  last  impatiently. 

' '  In  a  moment !  In  a  moment !  Two  roubles, 
twenty-four  kopecks — one  minute  !  One  rouble, 
sixty-four  kopecks !  ' '  said  the  grey-haired 
official,  throwing  their  notes  back  to  the  house- 
keepers and  porters.  "  What  do  you  wish?  "  he 
said,  turning  to  Kovaloff. 

"  I  wish — "  answered  the  latter,  "  I  have  just 
been  swindled  and  cheated,  and  I  cannot  get  hold 
of  the  perpetrator.  I  only  want  you  to  insert 
an  advertisement  to  say  that  whoever  brings  this 
scoundrel  to  me  will  be  well  rewarded." 

"  What  is  your  name,  please?  " 

M  Why  do  you  want  my  name?  I  have  many 
lady  friends — Madame  Tchektyriev,  wife  of  a 
state-councillor,  Madame  Podtotchina,  wife  of  a 
Colonel.  Heaven  forbid  that  they  should  get  to 
hear  of  it.  You  can  simply  write  '  committee- 
man/ or,  better,  '  Major.'  " 

"And  the  man  who  has  run  away  is  your 
serf." 

"  Serf!     If  he  wast  it  would  not  be  such  a 


THE    NOSE  85 

great  swindle !  It  is  the  nose  which  has 
absconded." 

"H'm!  What  a  strange  name.  And  this 
Mr  Nose  has  stolen  from  you  a  considerable 
sum?  " 

''Mr  Nose!  Ah,  you  don't  understand  me! 
It  is  my  own  nose  which  has  gone,  I  don't  know 
where.     The  devil  has  played  a  trick  on  me." 

"How  has  it  disappeared?  I  don't  under- 
stand." 

"  I  can't  tell  you  how,  but  the  important  point 
is  that  now  it  walks  about  the  city  itself  a  state- 
councillor.  That  is  why  I  want  you  to  advertise 
that  whoever  gets  hold  of  it  should  bring  it  as 
soon  as  possible  to  me.  Consider;  how  can  I 
live  without  such  a  prominent  part  of  my  body? 
It  is  not  as  if  it  were  merely  a  little  toe ;  I  would 
only  have  to  put  my  foot  in  my  boot  and  no  one 
would  notice  its  absence.  Every  Thursday  I 
call  on  the  wife  of  M.  Tchektyriev,  the  state- 
councillor;  Madame  Podtotchina,  a  Colonel's 
wife  who  has  a  very  pretty  daughter,  is  one  of 
my  acquaintances;  and  what  am  I  to  do  now? 
I  cannot  appear  before  them  like  this." 

The  official  compressed  his  lips  and  reflected. 
"No,  I  cannot  insert  an  advertisement  like 
that,"  he  said  after  a  long  pause. 

"What!     Why  not?" 

"Because  it  might  compromise  the  paper. 
Suppose  everyone  could  advertise  that  his  nose 


86  THE    NOSE 

was  lost.  People  already  say  that  all  sorts  of 
nonsense  and  lies  are  inserted." 

1 '  But  this  is  not  nonsense  !  There  is  nothing 
of  that  sort  in  my  case." 

"You  think  so?  Listen  a  minute.  Last 
week  there  was  a  case  very  like  it.  An  official 
came,  just  as  you  have  done,  bringing  an  adver- 
tisement for  the  insertion  of  which  he  paid  two 
roubles,  sixty-three  kopecks;  and  this  advertise- 
ment simply  announced  the  loss  of  a  black-haired 
poodle.  There  did  not  seem  to  be  anything  out 
of  the  way  in  it,  but  it  was  really  a  satire ;  by  the 
poodle  was  meant  the  cashier  of  some  establish- 
ment or  other." 

"  But  I  am  not  talking  of  a  poodle,  but  my 
own  nose;  i.e.  almost  myself." 

"  No,  I  cannot  insert  your  advertisement." 

"  But  my  nose  really  has  disappeared !  " 

"  That  is  a  matter  for  a  doctor.  There  are 
said  to  be  people  who  can  provide  you  with  any 
kind  of  nose  you  like.  But  I  see  that  you  are  a 
witty  man,  and  like  to  have  your  little  joke." 

"  But  I  swear  to  you  on  my  word  of  honour. 
Look  at  my  face  yourself." 

"Why  put  yourself  out?"  continued  the 
official,  taking  a  pinch  of  snuff.  "  All  the  same, 
if  you  don't  mind,"  he  added  with  a  touch  of 
curiosity,  "  I  should  like  to  have  a  look  at  it." 

The  committee-man  removed  the  handkerchief 
from  before  his  face. 


THE    NOSE  87 

"  It  certainly  does  look  odd,"  said  the  official. 
"  It  is  perfectly  flat  like  a  freshly  fried  pancake. 
It  is  hardly  credible." 

"Very  well.  Are  you  going  to  hesitate 
any  more?  You  see  it  is  impossible  to  refuse 
to  advertise  my  loss.  I  shall  be  particularly 
obliged  to  you,  and  I  shall  be  glad  that  this 
incident  has  procured  me  the  pleasure  of  making 
your  acquaintance."  The  Major,  we  see,  did 
not  even  shrink  from  a  slight  humiliation. 

"  It  certainly  is  not  difficult  to  advertise  it," 
replied  the  official;  "  but  I  don't  see  what  good 
it  would  do  you.  However,  if  you  lay  so  much 
stress  on  it,  you  should  apply  to  someone  who 
has  a  skilful  pen,  so  that  he  may  describe  it  as  a 
curious,  natural  freak,  and  publish  the  article  in 
the  Northern  Bee  "  (here  he  took  another  pinch) 
* '  for  the  benefit  of  youthful  readers  ■ %  (he  wiped 
his  nose),  "  or  simply  as  a  matter  worthy  of 
arousing  public  curiosity." 

The  committee-man  felt  completely  discour- 
aged. He  let  his  eyes  fall  absent-mindedly  on 
a  daily  paper  in  which  theatrical  performances 
were  advertised.  Eeading  there  the  name  of 
an  actress  whom  he  knew  to  be  pretty,  he  invol- 
untarily smiled,  and  his  hand  sought  his  pocket 
to  see  if  he  had  a  blue  ticket — for  in  Kovaloffs 
opinion  superior  officers  like  himself  should  not 
take  a  lesser-priced  seat;  but  the  thought  of  his 
lost  nose  suddenly  spoilt  everything. 


88  THE    NOSE 

The  official  himself  seemed  touched  at  his 
difficult  position.  Desiring  to  console  him,  he 
tried  to  express  his  sympathy  by  a  few  polite 
words.  "I  much  regret,"  he  said,  "your 
extraordinary  mishap.  Will  you  not  try  a 
pinch  of  snuff?  It  clears  the  head,  banishes 
depression,  and  is  a  good  preventive  against 
haemorroids." 

So  saying,  he  reached  his  snuff-box  out  to 
Kovaloff,  skilfully  concealing  at  the  same  time 
the  cover,  which  was  adorned  with  the  portrait  of 
some  lady  or  other. 

This  act,  quite  innocent  in  itself,  exasperated 
Kovaloff.  ' '  I  don't  understand  what  you  find  to 
joke  about  in  the  matter,"  he  exclaimed  angrily. 
•"  Don't  you  see  that  I  lack  precisely  the  essen- 
tial feature  for  taking  snuff?  The  devil  take 
your  snuff-box.  I  don't  want  to  look  at  snuff 
now,  not  even  the  best,  certainly  not  your  vile 
stuff!" 

So  saying,  he  left  the  advertisement  office  in 
a  state  of  profound  irritation,  and  went  to  the 
commissary  of  police.  He  arrived  just  as  this 
dignitary  was  reclining  on  his  couch,  and  saying 
to  himself  with  a  sigh  of  satisfaction,  "  Yes,  I 
shall  make  a  nice  little  sum  out  of  that." 

It  might  be  expected,  therefore,  that  the 
committee-man's  visit  would  be  quite  inoppor- 
tune. 

This  police  commissary  was  a  great  patron  of 


THE    NOSE  89 

all  the  arts  and  industries;  but  what  he  liked 
above  everything  else  was  a  cheque.  "  It  is  a 
thing,"  he  used  to  say,  "  to  which  it  is  not  easy 
to  find  an  equivalent ;  it  requires  no  food,  it  does 
not  take  up  much  room,  it  stays  in  one's  pocket, 
and  if  it  falls,  it  is  not  broken." 

The  commissary  accorded  Kovaloff  a  fairly 
frigid  reception,  saying  that  the  afternoon  was 
not  the  best  time  to  come  with  a  case,  that  nature 
required  one  to  rest  a  little  after  eating  (this 
showed  the  committee-man  that  the  commissary 
was  acquainted  with  the  aphorisms  of  the  ancient 
sages),  and  that  respectable  people  did  not  have 
their  noses  stolen. 

The  last  allusion  was  too  direct.  We  must 
remember  that  Kovaloff  was  a  very  sensitive 
man.  He  did  not  mind  anything  said  against 
him  as  an  individual,  but  he  could  not  endure 
any  reflection  on  his  rank  or  social  position.  He 
even  believed  that  in  comedies  one  might  allow 
attacks  on  junior  officers,  but  never  on  their 
seniors. 

The  commissary's  reception  of  him  hurt  his 
feelings  so  much  that  he  raised  his  head  proudly, 
and  said  with  dignity,  ' '  After  such  insulting 
expressions  on  your  part,  I  have  nothing  more 
to  say."     And  he  left  the  place. 

He  reached  his  house  quite  wearied  out.  It 
was  already  growing  dark.  After  all  his  fruit- 
less search,  his  room  seemed  to  him  melancholy 


90  THE    NOSE 

and  even  ugly.  In  the  vestibule  he  saw  his 
valet  Ivan  stretched  on  the  leather  couch  and 
amusing  himself  by  spitting  at  the  ceiling,  which 
he  did  very  cleverly,  hitting  every  time  the  same 
spot.  His  servant's  equanimity  enraged  him; 
he  struck  him  on  the  forehead  with  his  hat,  and 
said,  ' '  You  good-for-nothing,  you  are  always 
playing  the  fool! " 

Ivan  rose  quickly  and  hastened  to  take  off  his 
master's  cloak. 

Once  in  his  room,  the  Major,  tired  and  de- 
pressed, threw  himself  in  an  armchair  and,  after 
sighing  a  while,  began  to  soliloquise : 

"  In  heaven's  name,  why  should  such  a  mis- 
fortune befall  me?  If  I  had  lost  an  arm  or  a 
leg,  it  would  be  less  insupportable;  but  a  man 
without  a  nose  !  Devil  take  it ! — what  is  he  good 
for?  He  is  only  fit  to  be  thrown  out  of  the 
window.  If  it  had  been  taken  from  me  in  war  or 
in  a  duel,  or  if  I  had  lost  it  by  my  own  fault! 
But  it  has  disappeared  inexplicably.  But  no !  it 
is  impossible,"  he  continued  after  reflecting  a  few 
moments,  "it  is  incredible  that  a  nose  can  dis- 
appear like  that — quite  incredible.  I  must  be 
dreaming,  or  suffering  from  some  hallucination ; 
perhaps  I  swallowed,  by  mistake  instead  of 
water,  the  brandy  with  which  I  rub  my  chin  after 
being  shaved.  That  fool  of  an  Ivan  must  have 
forgotten  to  take  it  away,  and  I  must  have 
swallowed  it." 


THE    NOSE  91 

In  order  to  find  out  whether  he  were  really 
drunk,  the  Major  pinched  himself  so  hard  that 
he  unvoluntarily  uttered  a  cry.  The  pain  con- 
vinced him  that  he  was  quite  wide  awake.  He 
walked  slowly  to  the  looking-glass  and  at  first 
closed  his  eyes,  hoping  to  see  his  nose  suddenly 
in  its  proper  place;  but  on  opening  them,  he 
started  back.  "What  a  hideous  sight ■■!"  he 
exclaimed. 

It  was  really  incomprehensible.  One  might 
easily  lose  a  button,  a  silver  spoon,  a  watch,  or 
something  similar;  but  a  loss  like  this,  and  in 
one's  own  dwelling ! 

After  considering  all  the  circumstances,  Major 
Kovaloff  felt  inclined  to  suppose  that  the  cause 
of  all  his  trouble  should  be  laid  at  the  door  of 
Madame  Podtotchina,  the  Colonel's  wife,  who 
wished  him  to  marry  her  daughter.  He  himself 
paid  her  court  readily,  but  always  avoided 
coming  to  the  point.  And  when  the  lady  one 
day  told  him  point-blank  that  she  wished  him 
to  marry  her  daughter,  he  gently  drew  back, 
declaring  that  he  was  still  too  young,  and  that  he 
had  to  serve  five  years  more  before  he  would  be 
forty-two.  This  must  be  the  reason  why  the 
lady,  in  revenge,  had  resolved  to  bring  him  into 
-  disgrace,  and  had  hired  two  sorceresses  for  that 
object.  One  thing  was  certain — his  nose  had 
not  been  cut  off;  no  one  had  entered  his  room, 
and  as   for    Ivan  Jakovlevitch — he   had   been 


92  THE    NOSE 

shaved  by  him  on  Wednesday,  and  during  that 
day  and  the  whole  of  Thursday  his  nose  had 
been  there,  as  he  knew  and  well  remembered. 
Moreover,  if  his  nose  had  been  cut  off  he 
would  naturally  have  felt  pain,  and  doubtless 
the  wound  would  not  have  healed  so  quickly, 
nor  would  the  surface  have  been  as  flat  as  a 
pancake. 

All  kinds  of  plans  passed  through  his  head : 
should  he  bring  a  legal  action  against  the  wife 
of  a  superior  officer,  or  should  he  go  to  her  and 
charge  her  openly  with  her  treachery? 

His  reflections  were  interrupted  by  a  sudden 
light,  which  shone  through  all  the  chinks  of  the 
door,  showing  that  Ivan  had  lit  the  wax-candles 
in  the  vestibule.  Soon  Ivan  himself  came  in 
with  the  lights.  Kovaloff  quickly  seized  a  hand- 
kerchief and  covered  the  place  where  his  nose 
had  been  the  evening  before,  so  that  his  block- 
head of  a  servant  might  not  gape  with  his  mouth 
wide  open  when  he  saw  his  master's  extra- 
ordinary appearance. 

Scarcely  had  Ivan  returned  to  the  vestibule 
than  a  stranger's  voice  was  heard  there. 

"  Does  Major  Kovaloff  live  here?  "  it  asked. 

"Come  in!"  said  the  Major,  rising  rapidly 
and  opening  the  door. 

He  saw  a  police  official  of  pleasant  appearance, 
with  grey  whiskers  and  fairly  full  cheeks — the 
same  who  at  the  commencement  of  this  story  was 


THE    NOSE  93 

standing  at  the  end  of  the  Isaac  Bridge.  "  You 
have  lost  your  nose?  "  he  asked. 

"Exactly  so.'5 

"  It  has  just  been  found." 

"What — do  you  say?"  stammered  Major 
Kovaloff. 

Joy  had  suddenly  paralysed  his  tongue.  He 
stared  at  the  police  commissary  on  whose  cheeks 
and  full  lips  fell  the  flickering  light  of  the  candle. 

"  How  was  it?  "  he  asked  at  last. 

4 'By  a  very  singular  chance.  It  has  been 
arrested  just  as  it  was  getting  into  a  carriage  for 
Eiga.  Its  passport  had  been  made  out  some 
time  ago  in  the  name  of  an  official ;  and  what  is 
still  more  strange,  I  myself  took  it  at  first  for  a 
gentleman.  Fortunately  I  had  my  glasses  with 
me,  and  then  I  saw  at  once  that  it  was  a  nose. 
I  am  shortsighted,  you  know,  and  as  you  stand 
before  me  I  cannot  distinguish  your  nose,  your 
beard,  or  anything  else.  My  mother-in-law  can 
hardly  see  at  all." 

Kovaloff  was  beside  himself  with  excitement. 
M  Where  is  it?     Where?    I  will  hasten  there  at 


once." 


"  Don't  put  yourself  out.  Knowing  that  you 
need  it,  I  have  brought  it  with  me.  Another 
singular  thing  is  that  the  principal  culprit  in  the 
matter  is  a  scoundrel  of  a  barber  living  in  the 
Ascension  Avenue,  who  is  now  safely  locked  up. 
I  bad  long  suspected  him  of  drunkenness  mi 


84  THE    NOSE 

theft;  only  the  day  before  yesterday  he  stole 
some  buttons  in  a  shop.  Your  nose  is  quite 
uninjured.' '  So  saying,  the  police  commissary 
put  his  hand  in  his  pocket  and  brought  out  the 
nose  wrapped  up  in  paper. 

"  Yes,  yes,  that  is  it!  "  exclaimed  Kovaloff. 
'  ■  Will  you  not  stay  and  drink  a  cup  of  tea  with 
me?" 

"  I  should  like  to  very  much,  but  I  cannot. 
I  must  go  at  once  to  the  House  of  Correction. 
The  cost  of  living  is  very  high  nowadays.  My 
mother-in-law  lives  with  me,  and  there  are 
several  children;  the  eldest  is  very  hopeful  and 
intelligent,  but  I  have  no  means  for  their 
education." 

After  the  commissary's  departure,  Kovaloff 
remained  for  some  time  plunged  in  a  kind  of 
vague  reverie,  and  did  not  recover  full  con- 
sciousness for  several  moments,  so  great  was  the 
effect  of  this  unexpected  good  news.  He  placed 
the  recovered  nose  carefully  in  the  palm  of  his 
hand,  and  examined  it  again  with  the  greatest 
attention. 

"  Yes,  this  is  it !  "  he  said  to  himself.  "  Here 
is  the  heat-boil  on  the  left  side,  which  came  out 
yesterday."  And  he  nearly  laughed  aloud  with 
delight. 

But  nothing  is  permanent  in  this  world.  Joy 
in  the  second  moment  of  its  arrival  is  already 
less  keen  than  in  the  firgt,  is  still  fainter  in  th§ 


THE    NOSE  95 

third,  and  finishes  by  coalescing  with  our  normal 
mental  state,  just  as  the  circles  which  the  fall  of 
a  pebble  forms  on  the  surface  of  water,  gradually 
die  away.  Kovaloff  began  to  meditate,  and  saw 
that  his  difficulties  were  not  yet  over;  his  nose 
had  been  recovered,  but  it  had  to  be  joined  on 
again  in  its  proper  place. 

And  suppose  it  could  not?  As  he  put  this 
question  to  himself,  Kovaloff  grew  pale.  With 
a  feeling  of  indescribable  dread,  he  rushed 
towards  his  dressing-table,  and  stood  before  the 
mirror  in  order  that  he  might  not  place  his  nose 
crookedly.     His  hands  trembled. 

Very  carefully  he  placed  it  where  it  had  been 
before.  Horror!  It  did  not  remain  there. 
He  held  it  to  his  mouth  and  warmed  it  a  little 
with  his  breath,  and  then  placed  it  there  again; 
but  it  would  not  hold. 

"Hold  on,  you  stupid!"  he  said. 

But  the  nose  seemed  to  be  made  of  wood,  and 
fell  back  on  the  table  with  a  strange  noise,  as 
though  it  had  been  a  cork.  The  Major's  face 
began  to  twitch  feverishly.  "  Is  it  possible  that 
it  won't  stick?"  he  asked  himself,  full  of  alarm. 
But  however  often  he  tried,  all  his  efforts  were 
in  vain. 

He  called  Ivan,  and  sent  him  to  fetch  the 
doctor  who  occupied  the  finest  flat  in  the 
mansion.  This  doctor  was  a  man  of  imposing 
appearance,  who  had  magnificent  black  whiskers 


96  THE    NOSE 

and  a  healthy  wife.  He  ate  fresh  apples  every 
morning,  and  cleaned  his  teeth  with  extreme 
care,  using  five  different  tooth-brushes  for  three- 
quarters  of  an  hour  daily. 

The  doctor  came  immediately.  After  having 
asked  the  Major  when  this  misfortune  had  hap- 
pened, he  raised  his  chin  and  gave  him  a  fillip 
with  his  finger  just  where  the  nose  had  been,  in 
such  a  way  that  the  Major  suddenly  threw  back 
his  head  and  struck  the  wall  with  it.  The  doctor 
said  that  did  not  matter;  then,  making  him  turn 
his  face  to  the  right,  he  felt  the  vacant  place  and 
said  "  H'm! IJ  then  he  made  him  turn  it  to  the 
left  and  did  the  same ;  finally  he  again  gave  him 
a  fillip  with  his  finger,  so  that  the  Major  started 
like  a  horse  whose  teeth  are  being  examined. 
After  this  experiment,  the  doctor  shook  his  head 
and  said,  "No,  it  cannot  be  done.  Eather 
remain  as  you  are,  lest  something  worse  happen. 
Certainly  one  could  replace  it  at  once,  but  I 
assure  you  the  remedy  would  be  worse  than  the 
disease." 

M  All  very  fine,  but  how  am  I  to  go  on  with- 
out a  nose?"  answered  Kovaloff.  "There  is 
nothing  worse  than  that.  How  can  I  show 
myself  with  such  a  villainous  appearance  ?  I  go 
into  good  society,  and  this  evening  I  am  invited 
to  two  parties.  I  know  several  ladies,  Madame 
Tchektyriev,  the  wife  of  a  state-councillor, 
Madame  Podtotchina— although  after  what  she 


THE    NOSE  97 

has  done,  I  don't  want  to  have  anything  to  do 
with  her  except  through  the  agency  of  the  police. 
I  beg  you,"  continued  Kovaloff  in  a  supplicating 
tone,  "  find  some  way  or  other  of  replacing  it; 
even  if  it  is  not  quite  firm,  as  long  as  it  holds  at 
all;  I  can  keep  it  in  place  sometimes  with  my 
hand,  whenever  there  is  any  risk.  Besides,  I 
do  not  even  dance,  so  that  it  is  not  likely  to  be 
injured  by  any  sudden  movement.  As  to  your 
fee,  be  in  no  anxiety  about  that;  I  can  well 
afford  it." 

"  Believe  me,"  answered  the  doctor  in  a  voice 
which  was  neither  too  high  nor  too  low,  but  soft 
and  almost  magnetic,  "I  do  not  treat  patients 
from  love  of  gain.  That  would  be  contrary  to 
my  principles  and  to  my  art.  It  is  true  that  I 
accept  fees,  but  that  is  only  not  to  hurt  my 
patients'  feelings  by  refusing  them.  I  could 
certainly  replace  your  nose,  but  I  assure  you  on 
my  word  of  honour,  it  would  only  make  matters 
worse.  Bather  let  Nature  do  her  own  work. 
Wash  the  place  often  with  cold  water,  and  I 
assure  you  that  even  without  a  nose,  you  will  be 
just  as  well  as  if  you  had  one.  As  to  the  nose 
itself,  I  advise  you  to  have  it  preserved  in  a 
bottle  of  spirits,  or,  still  better,  of  warm  vinegar 
mixed  with  two  spoonfuls  of  brandy,  and  then 
you  can  sell  it  at  a  good  price.  I  would  be 
willing  to  take  it  myself,  provided  you  do  not 
ask  too  much." 

a 


98  THE    NOSE 

"No,  no,  I  shall  not  sell  it  at  any  price.  I 
would  rather  it  were  lost  again." 

"Excuse  me/'  said  the  doctor,  taking  his 
leave.  "  I  hoped  to  be  useful  to  you,  but  I  can 
do  nothing  more ;  you  are  at  any  rate  convinced 
of  my  good- will.' '  So  saying,  the  doctor  left 
the  room  with  a  dignified  air. 

Kovaloff  did  not  even  notice  his  departure. 
Absorbed  in  a  profound  reverie,  he  only  saw  the 
edge  of  his  snow-white  cuffs  emerging  from  the 
sleeves  of  his  black  coat. 

The  next  day  he  resolved,  before  bringing  a 
formal  action,  to  write  to  the  Colonel's  wife  and 
see  whether  she  would  not  return  to  him,  without 
further  dispute,  that  of  which  she  had  deprived 
him. 

The  letter  ran  as  follows : 

ccTo  Madame  Alexandra  Podtotchina, 

"  I  hardly  understand  your  method  of  action. 
Be  sure  that  by  adopting  such  a  course  you  will 
gain  nothing,  and  will  certainly  not  succeed  in 
making  me  marry  your  daughter.  Believe  me, 
the  story  of  my  nose  has  become  well  known;  it 
is  you  and  no  one  else  who  have  taken  the  princi- 
pal part  in  it.  Its  unexpected  separation  from 
the  place  which  it  occupied,  its  flight  and  its 
appearances  sometimes  in  the  disguise  of  an 
official,  sometimes  in  proper  person,  are  nothing 
but  the  consequence  of  unholy  spells  employed 


THE    NOSE  99 

by  you  or  by  persons  who,  like  you,  are  addicted 
to  such  honourable  pursuits.  On  my  part,  I  wish 
to  inform  you,  that  if  the  above-mentioned  nose 
is  not  restored  to-day  to  its  proper  place,  I  shall 
be  obliged  to  have  recourse  to  legal  procedure. 
"For  the  rest,  with  all  respect,  I  have  the 
honour  to  be  your  humble  servant, 

"Platon  Kovaloff." 

The  reply  was  not  long  in  coming,  and  was  as 
follows : 

"Major  Platon  Kovaloff, — 

"Your  letter  has  profoundly  astonished  me. 
I  must  confess  that  I  had  not  expected  such 
unjust  reproaches  on  your  part.  I  assure  you 
that  the  official  of  whom  you  speak  has  not  been 
at  my  house,  either  disguised  or  in  his  proper 
person.  It  is  true  that  Philippe  Ivanovitch 
Potantchikoff  has  paid  visits  at  my  house,  and 
though  he  Has  actually  asked  for  my  daughter's 
hand,  and  was  a  man  of  good  breeding,  respect- 
able and  intelligent,  I  never  gave  him  any  hope. 

"  Again,  you  say  something  about  a  nose. 
If  you  intend  to  imply  by  that  that  I  wished  to 
snub  you,  i.e.  to  meet  you  with  a  refusal,  I  am 
very  astonished  because,  as  you  well  know,  I  was 
quite  of  the  opposite  mind.  If  after  this  you 
wish  to  ask  for  my  daughter's  hand,  I  should  be 
glad  to  gratify  you,  for  such  has  also  been  the 
object  of  my  most  fervent  desireA  in  the  hope  of 


100  THE    NOSE 

the  accomplishment  of  which,  I  remain,  yours 
most  sincerely, 

"Alexandra  Podtotchina." 


"No,"  said  Kovaloff,  after  having  reperused 
the  letter,  "she  is  certainly  not  guilty.  It  is 
impossible.  Such  a  letter  could  not  be  written 
by  a  criminal."  The  committee-man  was  ex- 
perienced in  such  matters,  for  he  had  been  often 
officially  deputed  to  conduct  criminal  investiga- 
tions while  in  the  Caucasus.  "But  then  how 
and  by  what  trick  of  fate  has  the  thing  hap- 
pened?" he  said  to  himself  with  a  gesture  of 
discouragement.  "The  devil  must  be  at  the 
bottom  of  it." 

Meanwhile  the  rumour  of  this  extraordinary 
event  had  spread  all  over  the  city,  and,  as  is 
generally  the  case,  not  without  numerous  addi- 
tions. At  that  period  there  was  a  general  dis- 
position to  believe  in  the  miraculous;  the  public 
had  recently  been  impressed  by  experiments  in 
magnetism.  The  story  of  the  floating  chairs  in 
Koniouchennaia  Street  was  still  quite  recent, 
and  there  was  nothing  astonishing  in  hearing 
soon  afterwards  that  Major  Kovaloffs  nose  was 
to  be  seen  walking  every  day  at  three  o'clock 
on  the  Neffsky  Avenue.  The  crowd  of  curious 
spectators  which  gathered  there  daily  was  enor- 
mous. On  one  occasion  someone  spread  a  report 
that  the  nose  was  in  Junker's  stores  and  imme- 


THE    NOSE  101 

diately  the  place  was  besieged  by  such  a  crowd 
that  the  police  had  to  interfere  and  establish 
order.  A  certain  speculator  with  a  grave,  whis- 
kered face,  who  sold  cakes  at  a  theatre  door, 
had  some  strong  wooden  benches  made  which 
he  placed  before  the  window  of  the  stores,  and 
obligingly  invited  the  public  to  stand  on  them 
and  look  in,  at  the  modest  charge  of  twenty-four 
kopecks.  A  veteran  colonel,  leaving  his  house 
earlier  than  usual  expressly  for  the  purpose,  had 
the  greatest  difficulty  in  elbowing  his  way  through 
the  crowd,  but  to  his  great  indignation  he  saw 
nothing  in  the  store  window  but  an  ordinary 
flannel  waistcoat  and  a  coloured  lithograph 
representing  a  young  girl  darning  a  stocking, 
while  an  elegant  youth  in  a  waistcoat  with  large 
lappels  watched  her  from  behind  a  tree.  The 
picture  had  hung  in  the  same  place  for  more 
than  ten  years.  The  colonel  went  off,  growling 
savagely  to  himself,  *  *  How  can  the  fools  let 
themselves  be  excited  by  such  idiotic  stories?  " 
Then  another  rumour  got  abroad,  to  the  effect 
that  the  nose  of  Major  Kovaloff  was  in  the  habit 
of  walking  not  on  the  Neffsky  Avenue  but  in  the 
Tauris  Gardens.  Some  students  of  the  Academy 
of  Surgery  went  there  on  purpose  to  see  it.  A 
high-born  lady  wrote  to  the  keeper  of  the  gardens 
asking  him  to  show  her  children  this  rare  phen- 
omenon, and  to  give  them  some  suitable  instruc- 
tion on  the  occasion. 


102  THE    NOSE 

All  these  incidents  were  eagerly  collected  by 
the  town  wits,  who  just  then  were  very  short 
of  anecdotes  adapted  to  amuse  ladies.  On  the 
other  hand,  the  minority  of  solid,  sober  people 
were  very  much  displeased.  One  gentleman 
asserted  with  great  indignation  that  he  could  not 
understand  how  in  our  enlightened  age  such 
absurdities  could  spread  abroad,  and  he  was 
astonished  that  the  Government  did  not  direct 
their  attention  to  the  matter.  This  gentleman 
evidently  belonged  to  the  category  of  those 
people  who  wish  the  Government  to  interfere  in 
everything,  even  in  their  daily  quarrels  with  their 
wives. 

But  here  the  course  of  events  is  again  obscured 
by  a  veil. 

Ill 

Strange  events  happen  in  this  world,  events 
which  are  sometimes  entirely  improbable.  .  The 
same  nose  which  had  masqueraded  as  a  state- 
councillor,  and  caused  so  much  sensation  in  the 
town,  was  found  one  morning  in  its  proper  place, 
i.e.  between  the  cheeks  of  Major  Kovaloff,  as  if 
nothing  had  happened. 

This  occurred  on  7th  April.  On  awaking,  the 
Major  looked  by  chance  into  a  mirror  and  per- 
cieved  a  nose.  He  quickly  put  his  hand  to  it;  it 
was  there  beyond  a  doubt! 

"Oh!"  exclaimed  Kovaloff.     For  sheer  joy 


THE    NOSE  103 

he  was  on  the  point  of  performing  a  dance  bare- 
footed across  his  room,  but  the  entrance  of  Ivan 
prevented  him.  He  told  him  to  bring  water, 
and  after  washing  himself,  he  looked  again  in 
the  glass.  The  nose  was  there  !  Then  he  dried 
his  face  with  a  towel  and  looked  again.  Yes, 
there  was  no  mistake  about  it ! 

' '  Look  here,  Ivan,  it  seems  to  me  that  I  have 
a  heat-boil  on  my  nose,"  he  said  to  his  valet. 

And  he  thought  to  himself  at  the  same  time, 
'  That  will  be  a  nice  business  if  Ivan  says  to 
me  '  No,  sir,  not  only  is  there  no  boil,  but  your 
nose  itself  is  not  there !  *  ' ' 

But  Ivan  answered,  ' '  There  is  nothing,  sir ; 
I  can  see  no  boil  on  your  nose." 

' ' Good!  Good!  *'  exclaimed  the  Major,  and 
snapped  his  fingers  with  delight. 

At  this  moment  the  barber,  Ivan  Jakovlevitch, 
put  his  head  in  at  the  door,  but  as  timidly  as  a 
cat  which  has  just  been  beaten  for  stealing  lard. 

"  Tell  me  first,  are  your  hands  clean?  "  asked 
Kovaloff  when  he  saw  him. 

"Yes,  sir." 

"You  lie." 

"I  swear  they  are  perfectly  clean,  sir." 

"Very  well;  then  come  here." 

Kovaloff  seated  himself.  Jakovlevitch  tied  a 
napkin  under  his  chin,  and  in  the  twinkling  of  an 
eye  covered  his  beard  and  part  of  his  cheeks  with 
a  copious  creamy  lather. 


104  THE    NOSE 

"  There  it  is  !  "  said  the  barber  to  himself,  as 
he  glanced  at  the  nose.  Then  he  bent  his  head 
a  little  and  examined  it  from  one  side.  "  Yes, 
it    actually    is    the    nose — really,     when    one 

thinks "  he  continued,  pursuing  his  mental 

soliloquy  and  still  looking  at  it.  Then  quite 
gently,  with  infinite  precaution,  he  raised  two 
fingers  in  the  air  in  order  to  take  hold  of  it  by 
the  extremity,  as  he  was  accustomed  to  do. 

"  Now  then,  take  care!  "  Kovaloff  exclaimed. 

Ivan  Jakovlevitch  let  his  arm  fall  and  felt  more 
embarrassed  than  he  had  ever  done  in  his  life. 
At  last  he  began  to  pass  the  razor  very  lightly 
over  the  Major's  chin,  and  although  it  was  very 
difficult  to  shave  him  without  using  the  olfactory 
organ  as  a  point  of  support,  he  succeeded,  how- 
ever, by  placing  his  wrinkled  thumb  against  the 
Major's  lower  jaw  and  cheek,  thus  overcoming 
all  obstacles  and  bringing  his  task  to  a  safe 
conclusion. 

When  the  barber  had  finished,  Kovaloff  has- 
tened to  dress  himself,  took  a  droshky,  and  drove 
straight  to  the  confectioner's.  As  he  entered  it, 
he  ordered  a  cup  of  chocolate.  He  then  stepped 
straight  to  the  mirror ;  the  nose  was  there ! 

He  returned  joyfully,  and  regarded  with  a 
satirical  expression  two  officers  who  were  in  the 
shop,  one  of  whom  possessed  a  nose  not  much 
larger  than  a  waistcoat  button. 

After  that  he  went  to  the  office  of  the  depart- 


THE    NOSE  105 

ment  where  he  had  applied  for  the  post  of  vice- 
governor  of  a  province  or  Government  bailiff. 
As  he  passed  through  the  hall  of  reception,  he 
cast  a  glance  at  the  mirror ;  the  nose  was  there ! 
Then  he  went  to  pay  a  visit  to  another  committee- 
man, a  very  sarcastic  personage,  to  whom  he  was 
accustomed  to  say  in  answer  to  his  raillery, 
"  Yes,  I  know,  you  are  the  funniest  fellow  in 
St  Petersburg." 

On  the  way  he  said  to  himself,  "  If  the  Major 
does  not  burst  into  laughter  at  the  sight  of  me, 
that  is  a  most  certain  sign  that  everything  is  in 
its  accustomed  place." 

But  the  Major  said  nothing.  "  Very  good !  " 
thought  Kovaloff. 

As  he  returned,  he  met  Madame  Podtotchina 
with  her  daughter.  He  accosted  them,  and  they 
responded  very  graciously.  The  conversation 
lasted  a  long  time,  during  which  he  took  more 
than  one  pinch  of  snuff,  saying  to  himself,  "No, 
you  haven't  caught  me  yet,  coquettes  that  you 
are !  And  as  to  the  daughter,  I  shan't  marry 
her  at  all." 

After  that,  the  Major  resumed  his  walks  on 
the  Neffsky  Avenue  and  his  visits  to  the  theatre 
as  if  nothing  had  happened.  His  nose  also 
remained  in  its  place  as  if  it  had  never  quitted  it. 
From  that  time  he  was  always  to  be  seen  smiling, 
in  a  good  humour,  and  paying  attentions  to  pretty 
girls. 


106  THE    NOSE 


IV 

Such  was  the  occurrence  which  took  place  in 
the  northern  capital  of  our  vast  empire.  On 
considering  the  account  carefully  we  see  that 
there  is  a  good  deal  which  looks  improbable  about 
it.  Not  to  speak  of  the  strange  disappearance  of 
the  nose,  and  its  appearance  in  different  places 
under  the  disguise  of  a  councillor  of  state,  how 
was  it  that  Kovaloff  did  not  understand  that  one 
cannot  decently  advertise  for  a  lost  nose?  I  do 
not  mean  to  say  that  he  would  have  had  to  pay 
too  much  for  the  advertisement — that  is  a  mere 
trifle,  and  I  am  not  one  of  those  who  attach  too 
much  importance  to  money;  but  to  advertise  in 
Such  a  case  is  not  proper  nor  befitting. 

Another  difficulty  is — how  was  the  nose  found 
in  the  baked  loaf,  and  how  did  Ivan  Jakovlevitch 
himself — no,  I  don't  understand  it  at  all ! 

But  the  most  incomprehensible  thing  of  all  is, 
how  authors  can  choose  such  subjects  for  their 
stories.  That  really  surpasses  my  understand- 
ing. In  the  first  place,  no  advantage  results 
from  it  for  the  country;  and  in  the  second  place, 
no  harm  results  either. 

All  the  same,  when  one  reflects  well,  there 
really  is  something  in  the  matter.  Whatever 
may  be  said  to  the  contrary,  such  cases  do  occur 
—rarely,  it  is  true,  but  now  and  then  actually. 


MEMOIRS    OF    A    MADMAN 

October  3rd. — A  strange  occurrence  has  taken 
place  to-day.  I  got  up  fairly  late,  and  when 
Mawra  brought  me  my  clean  boots,  I  asked  her 
how  late  it  was.  When  I  heard  it  had  long 
struck  ten,  I  dressed  as  quickly  as  possible. 

To  tell  the  truth,  I  would  rather  not  have  gone 
to  the  office  at  all  to-day,  for  I  know  beforehand 
that  our  department-chief  will  look  as  sour  as 
vinegar.  For  some  time  past  he  has  been  in  the 
habit  of  saying  to  me,  "Look  here,  my  friend; 
there  is  something  wrong  with  your  head.  You 
often  rush  about  as  though  you  were  possessed. 
Then  you  make  such  confused  abstracts  of  the 
documents  that  the  devil  himself  cannot  make 
them  out;  you  write  the  title  without  any  capital 
letters,  and  add  neither  the  date  nor  the  docket- 
number."  The  long-legged  scoundrel!  He  is 
certainly  envious  of  me,  because  I  sit  in  the 
director's  work-room,  and  mend  His  Excel- 
lency's pens.  In  a  word,  I  should  not  have  gone 
to  the  office  if  I  had  not  hoped  to  meet  the 
accountant,  and  perhaps  squeeze  a  little  advance 
out  of  this  skinflint. 

107 


108        MEMOIRS    OF   A    MADMAN 

A  terrible  man,  this  accountant !  As  for  his 
advancing  one's  salary  once  in  a  way — you  might 
sooner  expect  the  skies  to  fall.  You  may  beg 
and  beseech  him,  and  be  on  the  very  verge  of 
ruin — this  grey  devil  won't  budge  an  inch.  At 
the  same  time,  his  own  cook  at  home,  as  all  the 
world  knows,  boxes  his  ears. 

I  really  don't  see  what  good  one  gets  by 
serving  in  our  department.  There  are  no  plums 
there.  In  the  fiscal  and  judicial  offices  it  is  quite 
different.  There  some  ungainly  fellow  sits  in  a 
corner  and  writes  and  writes;  he  has  such  a 
shabby  coat  and  such  an  ugly  mug  that  one  would 
like  to  spit  on  both  of  them.  But  you  should  see 
what  a  splendid  country-house  he  has  rented. 
He  would  not  condescend  to  accept  a  gilt  porce- 
lain cup  as  a  present.  "You  can  give  that  to 
your  family  doctor,"  he  would  say.  Nothing 
less  than  a  pair  of  chestnut  horses,  a  fine  car- 
riage, or  a  beaver-fur  coat  worth  three  hundred 
roubles  would  be  good  enough  for  him.  And 
yet  he  seems  so  mild  and  quiet,  and  asks  so 
amiably,  "  Please  lend  me  your  penknife;  I  wish 
to  mend  my  pen."  Nevertheless,  he  knows  how 
to  scarify  a  petitioner  till  he  has  hardly  a  whole 
stitch  left  on  his  body. 

In  our  office  it  must  be  admitted  everything  is 
done  in  a  proper  and  gentlemanly  way;  there 
is  more  cleanness  and  elegance  than  one  will 
ever  find   in    Government  offices.     The  tables 


MEMOIES    OF   A    MADMAN       109 

are  mahogany,  and  everyone  is  addressed  as 
"sir."  And  truly,  were  it  not  for  this  official 
propriety,  I  should  long  ago  have  sent  in  my 
resignation. 

I  put  on  my  old  cloak,  and  took  my  umbrella, 
as  a  light  rain  was  falling.  No  one  was  to  be 
seen  on  the  streets  except  some  women,  who  had 
flung  their  skirts  over  their  heads.  Here  and 
there  one  saw  a  cabman  or  a  shopman  with  his 
umbrella  up.  Of  the  higher  classes  one  only 
saw  an  official  here  and  there.  One  I  saw  at  the 
street-crossing,  and  thought  to  myself,  '  '  Ah ! 
my  friend,  you  are  not  going  to  the  office,  but 
after  that  young  lady  who  walks  in  front  of  you. 
You  are  just  like  the  officers  who  run  after  every 
petticoat  they  see." 

As  I  was  thus  following  the  train  of  my 
thoughts,  I  saw  a  carriage  stop  before  a  shop  just 
as  I  was  passing  it.  I  recognised  it  at  once;  it 
was  our  director's  carriage.  "He  has  nothing 
to  do  in  the  shop,"  I  said  to  myself;  "  it  must  be 
his  daughter/ ' 

I  pressed  myself  close  against  the  wall.  A 
lackey  opened  the  carriage  door,  and,  as  I  had 
expected,  she  fluttered  like  a  bird  out  of  it. 
How  proudly  she  looked  right  and  left;  how  she 
drew  her  eyebrows  together,  and  shot  lightnings 
from  her  eyes — good  heavens !  I  am  lost,  hope- 
lessly lost ! 

But  why  must  she  come  out  in  such  abominable 


110        MEMOIES    OF    A   MADMAN 

weather?  And  yet  they  say  women  are  so  mad 
on  their  finery ! 

She  did  not  recognise  me.  I  had  wrapped 
myself  as  closely  as  possible  in  my  cloak.  It 
was  dirty  and  old-fashioned,  and  I  would  not 
have  liked  to  have  been  seen  by  her  wearing  it. 
Now  they  wear  cloaks  with  long  collars,  but 
mine  has  only  a  short  double  collar,  and  the 
cloth  is  of  inferior  quality. 

Her  little  dog  could  not  get  into  the  shop,  and 
remained  outside.  I  know  this  dog;  its  name  is 
"  Meggy." 

Before  I  had  been  standing  there  a  minute,  I 
heard  a  voice  call,  "  Good  day,  Meggy!  " 

Who  the  deuce  was  that?  I  looked  round 
and  saw  two  ladies  hurrying  by  under  an  um- 
brella— one  old,  the  other  fairly  young.  They 
had  already  passed  me  when  I  heard  the  same 
voice  say  again,  "For  shame,  Meggy !  " 

What  was  that?  I  saw  Meggy  sniffing  at  a 
dog  which  ran  behind  the  ladies.  The  deuce ! 
I  thought  to  myself,  "I  am  not  drunk?  That 
happens  pretty  seldom.' ' 

"  No,  Fidel,  you  are  wrong,"  I  heard  Meggy 
say  quite  distinctly.  "I  was — bow — wow! — I 
was — bow!  wow!  wow! — very  fll." 

What  an  extraordinary  dog!  I  was,  to  tell 
the  truth,  quite  amazed  to  hear  it  talk  human 
language.  But  when  I  considered  the  matter 
well,  I  ceased  to  be  astonished.     In  fact,  such 


MEMOIES    OF   A    MADMAN        111 

things  have  already  happened  in  the  world.  It 
is  said  that  in  England  a  fish  put  its  head  out  of 
water  and  said  a  word  or  two  in  such  an  extra- 
ordinary language  that  learned  men  have  been 
puzzling  over  them  for  three  years,  and  have  not 
succeeded  in  interpreting  them  yet.  I  also  read 
in  the  paper  of  two  cows  who  entered  a  shop  and 
asked  for  a  pound  of  tea. 

Meanwhile  what  Meggy  went  on  to  say  seemed 
to  me  still  more  remarkable.  She  added,  "I 
wrote  to  you  lately,  Fidel;  perhaps  Polkan  did 
not  bring  you  the  letter/ ' 

Now  I  am  willing  to  forfeit  a  whole  month's 
salary  if  I  ever  heard  of  dogs  writing  before. 
This  has  certainly  astonished  me.  For  some 
little  time  past  I  hear  and  see  things  which  no 
other  man  has  heard  and  seen. 

"  I  will,"  I  thought,  "  follow  that  dog  in 
order  to  get  to  the  bottom  of  the  matter, 
Accordingly,  I  opened  my  umbrella  and  went 
after  the  two  ladies.  They  went  down  Bean 
Street,  turned  through  Citizen  Street  and  Car- 
penter Street,  and  finally  halted  on  the  Cuckoo 
Bridge  before  a  large  house.  I  know  this  house ; 
it  is  Sverkoff's.  What  a  monster  he  is !  What 
sort  of  people  live  there !  How  many  cooks, 
how  many  bagmen !  There  are  brother  officials 
of  mine  also  there  packed  on  each  other  like 
herrings.  And  I  have  a  friend  there,  a  fine 
player  on  the  cornet.' ' 


112        MEMOIES    OF    A    MADMAN 

The  ladies  mounted  to  the  fifth  story.  "  Very 
good,"  thought  I;  "I  will  make  a  note  of  the 
number,  in  order  to  follow  up  the  matter  at  the 
first  opportunity." 

October  tth. — To-day  is  Wednesday,  and  I 
was  as  usual  in  the  office.  I  came  early  on 
purpose,  sat  down,  and  mended  all  the  pens. 

Our  director  must  be  a  very  clever  man. 
The  whole  room  is  full  of  bookcases.  I  read  the 
titles  of  some  of  the  books;  they  were  very 
learned,  beyond  the  comprehension  of  people 
of  my  class,  and  all  in  French  and  German.  I 
look  at  his  face ;  see !  how  much  dignity  there  is 
in  his  eyes.  I  never  hear  a  single  superfluous 
word  from  his  mouth,  except  that  when  he  hands 
over  the  documents,  he  asks  "What  sort  of 
weather  is  it?" 

No,  he  is  not  a  man  of  our  class;  he  is  a  real 
statesman.  I  have  already  noticed  that  I  am  a 
special  favourite  of  his.  If  now  his  daughter 
also — ah !  what  folly — let  me  say  no  more  about 
it! 

I  have  read  the  Northern  Bee.  What  foolish 
people  the  French  are!  By  heavens!  I  should 
like  to  tackle  them  all,  and  give  them  a  thrash- 
ing. I  have  also  read  a  fine  description  of  a 
ball  given  by  a  landowner  of  Kursk.  The  land- 
owners of  Kursk  write  a  fine  style. 

Then  I  noticed  that  it  was  already  half-past 


MEMOIRS    OF    A    MADMAN        113 

twelve,  and  the  director  had  not  yet  left  his 
bedroom.  But  about  half -past  one  something 
happened  which  no  pen  can  describe. 

The  door  opened.  I  thought  it  was  the 
director;  I  jumped  up  with  my  documents  from 
the  seat,  and — then — she — herself — came  into 
the  room.  Ye  saints !  how  beautifully  she  was 
dressed.  Her  garments  were  whiter  than  a 
swan's  plumage — oh  how  splendid!  A  sun, 
indeed,  a  real  sun! 

She  greeted  me  and  asked,  "  Has  not  my 
father  come  yet?  " 

Ah!  what  a  voice.  A  canary  bird!  A  real 
canary  bird ! 

"  Your  Excellency, M  I  wanted  to  exclaim, 
"  don't  have  me  executed,  but  if  it  must  be 
done,  then  kill  me  rather  with  your  own  angelic 
hand."  But,  God  knows  why,  I  could  not  bring 
it  out,  so  I  only  said,  "No,  he  has  not  come  yet." 

She  glanced  at  me,  looked  at  the  books,  and 
let  her  handkerchief  fall.  Instantly  I  started 
up,  but  slipped  on  the  infernal  polished  floor, 
and  nearly  broke  my  nose.  Still  I  succeeded 
in  picking  up  the  handkerchief.  Ye  heavenly 
choirs,  what  a  handkerchief!  So  tender  and 
soft,  of  the  finest  cambric.  It  had  the  scent  of 
a  general's  rank ! 

She  thanked  me,  and  smiled  so  amiably  that 
her  sugar  lips  nearly  melted.  Then  she  left  the 
room. 

8 


114        MEMOIRS    OF    A    MADMAN 

After  I  had  sat  there  about  an  hour,  a  flunkey 
came  in  and  said,  "You  can  go  home,  Mr 
Ivanovitch;  the  director  has  already  gone  out!  M 

I  cannot  stand  these  lackeys!  They  hang 
about  the  vestibules,  and  scarcely  vouchsafe  to 
greet  one  with  a  nod.  Yes,  sometimes  it  is  even 
worse;  once  one  of  these  rascals  offered  me  his 
snuff-box  without  even  getting  up  from  his  chair. 
"Don't  you  know  then,  you  country-bumpkin, 
that  I  am  an  official  and  of  aristocratic  birth?  M 

This  time,  however,  I  took  my  hat  and  over- 
coat quietly;  these  people  naturally  never  think 
of  helping  one  on  with  it.  I  went  home,  lay  a 
good  while  on  the  bed,  and  wrote  some  verses 
in  my  note : 

"  "Tis  an  hour  since  I  saw  thee, 

And  it  seems  a  whole  long  year; 
If  I  loathe  my  own  existence, 
How  can  I  live  on,  my  dear?  " 

I  think  they  are  by  Pushkin. 

In  the  evening  I  wrapped  myself  in  my  cloak, 
hastened  to  the  director's  house,  and  waited 
there  a  long  time  to  see  if  she  would  come  out 
and  get  into  the  carriage.  I  only  wanted  to  see 
her  once,  but  she  did  not  come. 

November  6th. — Our  chief  clerk  has  gone 
mad.  When  I  came  to  the  office  to-day  he  called 
me  to  his  room  and  began  as  follows :  ' '  Look 
here,  my  friend,  what  wild  ideas  have  got  into 
your  head?'' 


MEMOIES    OF    A    MADMAN        115 

.  "How!     What?    None  at  all,"  I  answered. 

M  Consider  well.  You  are  already  past  forty; 
it  is  quite  time  to  be  reasonable.  What  do  you 
imagine?  Do  you  think  I  don't  know  all  your 
tricks?  Are  you  trying  to  pay  court  to  the 
director's  daughter?  Look  at  yourself  and 
realise  what  you  are !  A  nonentity,  nothing  else. 
I  would  not  give  a  kopeck  for  you.  Look  well 
in  the  glass.  How  can  you  have  such  thoughts 
with  such  a  caricature  of  a  face?" 

May  the  devil  take  him!  Because  his  own 
face  has  a  certain  resemblance  to  a  medicine- 
bottle,  because  he  has  a  curly  bush  of  hair  on 
his  head,  and  sometimes  combs  it  upwards,  and 
sometimes  plasters  it  down  in  all  kinds  of  queer 
ways,  he  thinks  that  he  can  do  everything.  I 
know  well,  I  know  why  he  is  angry  with  me. 
He  is  envious ;  perhaps  he  has  noticed  the  tokens 
of  favour  which  have  been  graciously  shown  me. 
But  why  should  I  bother  about  him?  A  coun- 
cillor! What  sort  of  important  animal  is  that? 
He  wears  a  gold  chain  with  his  watch,  buys 
himself  boots  at  thirty  roubles  a  pair;  may  the 
deuce  take  him!  Am  I  a  tailor's  son  or  some 
other  obscure  cabbage?  I  am  a  nobleman!  I 
can  also  work  my  way  up.  I  am  just  forty-two 
— an  age  when  a  man's  real  career  generally 
begins.  Wait  a  bit,  my  friend !  I  too  may  get 
to  a  superior's  rank;  or  perhaps,  if  God  is 
gracious,  even  to  a  higher  one,     I  shall  mq,ke  a 


116        MEMOIRS    OF    A    MADMAN 

name  which  will  far  outstrip  yours.  You  think 
there  are  no  able  men  except  yourself?  I  only 
need  to  order  a  fashionable  coat  and  wear  a  tie 
like  yours,  and  you  would  be  quite  eclipsed. 

But  I  have  no  money — that  is  the  worst  part 
of  it! 

November  8th. — I  was  at  the  theatre.  l*  The 
Russian  House-Fool  M  was  performed.  I  laughed 
heartily.  There  was  also  a  kind  of  musical 
comedy  which  contained  amusing  hits  at  bar- 
risters. The  language  was  very  broad ;  I  wonder 
the  censor  passed  it.  In  the  comedy  lines  occur 
which  accuse  the  merchants  of  cheating;  their 
sons  are  said  to  lead  immoral  lives,  and  to 
behave  very  disrespectfully  towards  the  nobility. 

The  critics  also  are  criticised;  they  are  said 
only  to  be  able  to  find  fault,  so  that  authors  have 
to  beg  the  public  for  protection. 

Our  modern  dramatists  certainly  write  amus- 
ing things.  I  am  very  fond  of  the  theatre.  If 
I  have  only  a  kopeck  in  my  pocket,  I  always 
go  there.  Most  of  my  fellow-officials  are  un- 
educated boors,  and  never  enter  a  theatre  unless 
one  throws  free  tickets  at  their  head. 

One  actress  sang  divinely.  I  thought  also  of 
— but  silence ! 

November  9  th. — About  eight  o'clock  I  went  to 
the  office.  The  chief  clerk  pretended  not  to 
notice  my  arrival.     I  for  my  part  also  behaved 


MEMOIES    OF    A    MADMAN        117 

as  though  he  were  not  in  existence.  I  read 
through  and  collated  documents.  About  four 
o'clock  I  left.  I  passed  by  the  director's  house, 
but  no  one  was  to  be  seen.  After  dinner  I  lay 
for  a  good  while  on  the  bed. 

November  11th. — To-day  I  sat  in  the  di- 
rector's room,  mended  twenty-three  pens  for 
him,  and  for  Her — for  Her  Excellence,  his 
daughter,  four  more. 

The  director  likes  to  see  many  pens  lying  on 
his  table.  What  a  head  he  must  have !  He 
continually  wraps  himself  in  silence,  but  I  don't 
think  the  smallest  trifle  escapes  his  eye.  I  should 
like  to  know  what  he  is  generally  thinking  of, 
what  is  really  going  on  in  this  brain ;  I  should  like 
to  get  acquainted  with  the  whole  manner  of  life 
of  these  gentlemen,  and  get  a  closer  view  of  their 
cunning  courtiers'  arts,  and  all  the  activities  of 
these  circles.  I  have  often  thought  of  asking  His 
Excellence  about  them;  but — the  deuce  knows 
why ! — every  time  my  tongue  failed  me  and  I 
could  get  nothing  out  but  my  meteorological 
report. 

I  wish  I  could  get  a  look  into  the  spare-room 
whose  door  I  so  often  see  open.  And  a  second 
small  room  behind  the  spare-room  excites  my 
curiosity.  How  splendidly  it  is  fitted  up ;  what  a 
quantity  of  mirrors  and  choice  china  it  contains ! 
I  should  also  like  to  cast  a  glance  into  those 


118       MEM0IE8    OF   A   MADMAN 

regions  where  Her  Excellency,  the  daughter, 
wields  the  sceptre.  I  should  like  to  see  how  all 
the  scent-bottles  and  boxes  are  arranged  in  her 
boudoir,  and  the  flowers  which  exhale  so  de- 
licious a  scent  that  one  is  half  afraid  to  breathe. 
And  her  clothes  lying  about  which  are  too 
ethereal  to  be  called  clothes — but  silence ! 

To-day  there  came  to  me  what  seemed  a 
heavenly  inspiration.  I  remembered  the  conver- 
sation between  the  two  dogs  which  I  had  over- 
heard on  the  Nevski  Prospect.  "  Very  good," 
I  thought;  "  now  I  see  my  way  clear.  I  must 
get  hold  of  the  correspondence  which  these  two 
silly  dogs  have  carried  on  with  each  other.  In 
it  I  shall  probably  find  many  things  explained.' ' 

I  had  already  once  called  Meggy  to  me  and 
said  to  her,  ' '  Listen,  Meggy !  Now  we  are 
alone  together;  if  you  like,  I  will  also. shut  the 
door  so  that  no  one  can  see  us.  Tell  me  now 
all  that  you  know  about  your  mistress.  I  swear 
to  you  that  I  will  tell  no  one." 

But  the  cunning  dog  drew  in  its  tail,  ruffled  up 
its  hair,  and  went  quite  quietly  out  of  the  door, 
as  though  it  had  heard  nothing. 

I  had  long  been  of  the  opinion  that  dogs  are 
much  cleverer  than  men.  I  also  believed  that 
they  could  talk,  and  that  only  a  certain  obstinacy 
kept  them  from  doing  so.  They  are  especially 
watchful  animals,  and  nothing  escapes  their 
observation.     Now,  cost  what  it  may,  I  will  go 


MEMOIES    OF   A    MADMAN        119 

to-morrow  to  Sverkoff's  house  in  order  to  ask 
after  Fidel,  and  if  I  have  luck,  to  get  hold  of  all 
the  letters  which  Meggy  has  written  to  her. 

November  12th. — To-day  about  two  o'clock 
in  the  afternoon  I  started  in  order,  by  some 
means  or  other,  to  see  Fidel  and  question  her. 

I  cannot  stand  this  smell  of  Sauerkraut  which 
assails  one's  olfactory  nerves  from  all  the  shops 
in  Citizen  Street.  There  also  exhales  such  an 
odour  from  under  each  house  door,  that  one 
must  hold  one's  nose  and  pass  by  quickly. 
There  ascends  also  so  much  smoke  and  soot  from 
the  artisans'  shops  that  it  is  almost  impossible  to 
get  through  it. 

When  I  had  climbed  up  to  the  sixth  story, 
and  had  rung  the  bell,  a  rather  pretty  girl  with  a 
freckled  face  came  out.  I  recognised  her  as  the 
companion  of  the  old  lady.  She  blushed  a  little 
and  asked  "  What  do  you  want?" 

'  ■  I  want  to  have  a  little  conversation  with  your 
dog." 

She  was  a  simple-minded  girl,  as  I  saw  at  once. 
The  dog  came  running  and  barking  loudly.  I 
wanted  to  take  hold  of  it,  but  the  abominable 
beast  nearly  caught  hold  of  my  nose  with  its 
teeth.  But  in  a  corner  of  the  room  I  saw  its 
sleeping-basket.  Ah !  that  was  what  I  wanted. 
I  went  to  it,  rummaged  in  the  straw,  and  to  my 
great  satisfaction  drew  out  a  little  packet  of  small 


120        MEMOIES    OF    A    MADMAN 

pieces  of  paper.  When  the  hideous  little  dog 
saw  this,  it  first  bit  me  in  the  calf  of  the  leg,  and 
then,  as  soon  as  it  had  become  aware  of  my  theft, 
it  began  to  whimper  and  to  fawn  on  me;  but  I 
said,  "  No,  you  little  beast;  good-bye!"  and 
hastened  away. 

I  believe  the  girl  thought  me  mad ;  at  any  rate 
she  was  thoroughly  alarmed. 

When  I  reached  my  room  I  wished  to  get  to 
work  at  once,  and  read  through  the  letters  by 
daylight,  since  I  do  not  see  well  by  candle-light; 
but  the  wretched  Mawra  had  got  the  idea  of 
sweeping  the  floor.  These  blockheads  of  Fin- 
nish women  are  always  clean  where  there  is  no 
need  to  be. 

I  then  went  for  a  little  walk  and  began  to  think 
over  what  had  happened.  Now  at  last  I  could 
get  to  the  bottom  of  all  facts,  ideas  and  motives ! 
These  letters  would  explain  everything.  Dogs 
are  clever  fellows;  they  know  all  about  politics, 
and  I  will  certainly  find  in  the  letters  all  I  want, 
especially  the  character  of  the  director  and  all 
his  relationships.  And  through  these  letters  I 
will  get  information  about  her  who — but  silence ! 

Towards  evening  I  came  home  and  lay  for  a 
good  while  on  the  bed. 

November  13th. — Now  let  us  see !  The  letter 
is  fairly  legible  but  the  handwriting  is  somewhat 
doggish. 


MEMOIES    OF    A    MADMAN       121 

"Dear  Fidel!— I  cannot  get  accustomed  to 
your  ordinary  name,  as  if  they  could  not  have 
found  a  better  one  for  you !  Fidel !  How  taste- 
less !  How  ordinary !  But  this  is  sot  the  time 
to  discuss  it.  I  am  very  glad  that  we  thought  of 
corresponding  with  each  other.' ' 

(The  letter  is  quite  correctly  written.  The 
punctuation  and  spelling  are  perfectly  right. 
Even  our  head  clerk  does  not  write  so  simply 
and  clearly,  though  he  declares  he  has  been  at 
the  University.     Let  us  go  on.) 

"  I  think  that  it  is  one  of  the  most  refined  joys 
of  this  world  to  interchange  thoughts,  feelings, 
and  impressions.' ' 

(H'm!  This  idea  comes  from  some  book 
which  has  been  translated  from  German.  I 
can't  remember  the  title.) 

"I  speak  from  experience,  although  I  have 
not  gone  farther  into  the  world  than  just  before 
our  front  door.  Does  not  my  life  pass  happily 
and  comfortably?  My  mistress,  whom  her 
father  calls  Sophie,  is  quite  in  love  with  me." 

(Ah!     Ah!— but  better  be  silent!) 

"  Her  father  also  often  strokes  me.  I  drink 
tea  and  coffee  with  cream.  Yes,  my  dear,  I  must 
confess  to  you  that  I  find  no  satisfaction  in  those 
large,  gnawed-at  bones  which  Polkan  devours  in 
the  kitchen.  Only  the  bones  of  wild  fowl  are 
good,  and  that  only  when  the  marrow  has  not 
been  sucked  out  of  them.     They  taste  very  nice 


122       MEMOIKS    OF   A   MADMAN 

with  a  little  sauce,  but  there  should  be  no  green 
stuff  in  it.  But  I  know  nothing  worse  than  the 
habit  of  giving  dogs  balls  of  bread  kneaded  up. 
Someone  sits  at  table,  kneads  a  bread-ball  with 
dirty  fingers, calls  you  and  sticks  it  in  your  mouth. 
Good  manners  forbid  your  refusing  it,  and  you 
eat  it — with  disgust  it  is  true,  but  you  eat  it." 

(The  deuce!  What  is  this?  What  rubbish! 
As  if  she  could  find  nothing  more  suitable  to 
write  about !  I  will  see  if  there  is  anything  more 
reasonable  on  the  second  page.) 

' '  I  am  quite  willing  to  inform  you  of  every- 
thing that  goes  on  here.  I  have  already  men- 
tioned the  most  important  person  in  the  house, 
whom  Sophie  calls  '  Papa.'     He  is  a  very  strange 


man." 


(Ah !  Here  we  are  at  last !  Yes,  I  knew  it ; 
they  have  a  politician's  penetrating  eye  for  all 
things.  Let  us  see  what  she  says  about  "  Papa.") 

".  .  .  a  strange  man.  Generally  he  is  silent ; 
he  only  speaks  seldom,  but  about  a  week  ago  he 
kept  on  repeating  to  himself,  *  Shall  I  get  it  or 
not  ? '  In  one  hand  he  took  a  sheet  of  paper ; 
the  other  he  stretched  out  as  though  to  receive 
something,  and  repeated,  '  Shall  I  get  it  or  not?  ' 
Once  he  turned  to  me  with  the  question,  '  What 
do  you  think,  Meggy?  '  I  did  not  understand  in 
the  least  what  he  meant,  sniffed  at  his  boots,  and 
went  away.  A  week  later  he  came  home  with 
his  face  beaming.     That  morning  he  was  visited 


MEM0IE8   OP   A   MADMAN       123 

by.  several  officers  in  uniform  who  congratulated 
him.  At  the  dinner-table  he  was  in  a  better 
humour  than  I  have  ever  seen  him  before/' 

(Ah!  he  is  ambitious  then!  I  must  make  a 
note  of  that.) 

"Pardon,  my  dear,  I  hasten  to  conclude,  etc., 
etc.     To-morrow  I  will  finish  the  letter." 

' '  Now,  good  morning ;  here  I  am  again  at 
your  service.  To-day  my  mistress  Sophie  ..." 

(Ah !  we  will  see  what  she  says  about  Sophie. 
Let  us  go  on !) 

".  .  .  was  in  an  unusually  excited  state. 
She  went  to  a  ball,  and  I  was  glad  that  I  could 
write  to  you  in  her  absence.  She  likes  going  to 
balls,  although  she  gets  dreadfully  irritated  while 
dressing.  I  cannot  understand,  my  dear,  what 
is  the  pleasure  in  going  to  a  ball.  She  comes 
home  from  the  ball  at  six  o'clock  in  the  early 
morning,  and  to  judge  by  her  pale  and  emaciated 
face,  she  has  had  nothing  to  eat.  I  could, 
frankly  speaking,  not  endure  such  an  existence. 
If  I  could  not  get  partridge  with  sauce,  or  the 
wing  of  a  roast  chicken,  I  don't  know  what  I 
should  do.  Porridge  with  sauce  is  also  toler- 
able, but  I  can  get  up  no  enthusiasm  for  carrots, 
turnips,  and  artichokes." 

The  style  is  very  unequal !  One  sees  at  once 
that  it  has  not  been  written  by  a  man.     The 


124        MEMOIES    OF    A   MADMAN 

beginning  is  quite  intelligent,  but  at  the  end  the 
canine  nature  breaks  out.  I  will  read  another 
letter;  it  is  rather  long  and  there  is  no  date. 

"  Ah,  my  dear,  how  delightful  is  the  arrival  of 
spring!  My  heart  beatp  as  though  it  expected 
something.  There  is  a  perpetual  ringing  in  my 
ears,  so  that  I  often  stand  with  my  foot  raised, 
for  several  minutes  at  a  time,  and  listen  towards 
the  door.  In  confidence  I  will  tell  you  that  I 
have  many  admirers.  I  often  sit  on  the  window- 
sill  and  let  them  pass  in  review.  Ah!  if  you 
knew  what  miscreations  there  are  among  them; 
one,  a  clumsy  house-dog,  with  stupidity  written 
on  his  face,  walks  the  street  with  an  important 
air  and  imagines  that  he  is  an  extremely  impor- 
tant person,  and  that  the  eyes  of  all  the  world 
are  fastened  on  him.  I  don't  pay  him  the  least 
attention,  and  pretend  not  to  see  him  at  all. 

"And  what  a  hideous  bulldog  has  taken  up 
his  post  opposite  my  window!  If  he  stood  on 
his  hind-legs,  as  the  monster  probably  cannot, 
he  would  be  taller  by  a  head  than  my  mistress's 
papa,  who  himself  has  a  stately  figure.  This  lout 
seems,  moreover,  to  be  very  impudent.  I  growl 
at  him,  but  he  does  not  seem  to  mind  that  at  all. 
If  he  at  least  would  only  wrinkle  his  forehead ! 
Instead  of  that,  he  stretches  out  his  tongue, 
droops  his  big  ears,  and  stares  in  at  the  window 
— this  rustic  boor !     But  do  you  think,  my  dear, 


MEMOIRS    OF    A    MADMAN        125 

that  my  heart  remains  proof  against  all  tempta- 
tions ?  Alas  no !  If  you  had  only  seen  that 
gentlemanly  dog  who  crept  through  the  fence 
of  the  neighbouring  house.  ■  Treasure '  is  his 
name.  Ah,  my  dear,  what  a  delightful  snout  ha 
has!" 

(To  the  deuce  with  the  stuff!  What  rubbish 
it  is!  How  can  one  blacken  paper  with  such 
absurdities.  Give  me  a  man.  I  want  to  see  a 
man !  I  need  some  food  to  nourish  and  refresh 
my  mind,  and  get  this  silliness  instead.  I  will 
turn  the  page  to  see  if  there  is  anything  better 
on  the  other  side.) 

"  Sophie  sat  at  the  table  and  sewed  something. 
I  looked  out  of  the  window  and  amused  myself 
by  watching  the  passers-by.  Suddenly  a  flunkey 
entered  and  announced  a  visitor — 'Mr  TeploftV 

"  '  Show  him  in ! '  said  Sophie,  and  began  to 
embrace  me.  '  Ah !  Meggy,  Meggy,  do  you 
know  who  that  is?  He  is  dark,  and  belongs  to 
the  Royal  Household;  and  what  eyes  he  has! 
Dark  and  brilliant  as  fire.' 

"  Sophie  hastened  into  her  room.  A  minute 
later  a  young  gentleman  with  black  whiskers 
entered.  He  went  to  the  mirror,  smoothed  his 
hair,  and  looked  round  the  room.  I  turned  away 
and  sat  down  in  my  place, 

"  Sophie  entered  and  returned  his  bow  in  a 
friendly  manner. 

"I  pretended  to  observe  nothing,  and  con- 


126        MEMOIES    OF    A    MADMAN 

tinued  to  look  out  of  the  window.  But  I  leant 
my  head  a  little  on  one  side  to  hear  what  they 
were  talking  about.  Ah,  my  dear!  what  silly 
things  they  discussed — how  a  lady  executed  the 
wrong  figure  in  dancing;  how  a  certain  Boboff, 
with  his  expansive  shirt-frill,  had  looked  like  a 
stork  and  nearly  fallen  down;  how  a  certain 
Lidina  imagined  she  had  blue  eyes  when  they 
were  really  green,  etc. 

u  I  do  not  know,  my  dear,  what  special  charm 
she  finds  in  her  Mr  Teploff,  and  why  she  is  so 
delighted  with  him." 

(It  seems  to  me  myself  that  there  is  something 
wrong  here.  It  is  impossible  that  this  Teploff 
should  bewitch  her.     We  will  see  further.) 

*  *  If  this  gentleman  of  the  Household  pleases 
her,  then  she  must  also  be  pleased,  according  to 
my  view,  with  that  official  who  sits  in  her  papa's 
writing-room.  Ah,  my  dear,  if  you  know  what 
a  figure  he  is !     A  regular  tortoise  !  "         * 

(What  official  does  she  mean?) 

"  He  has  an  extraordinary  name.  He  always 
sits  there  and  mends  the  pens.  His  hair  looks 
like  a  truss  of  hay.  Her  papa  always  employs 
him  instead  of  a  servant.' • 

(I  believe  this  abominable  little  beast  is  refer- 
ring to  me.  But  what  has  my  hair  got  to  do  with 
hay?) 

1 '  Sophie  can  never  keep  from  laughing  when 
she  sees  him/' 


MEMOIES    OF   A   MADMAN        127 

You  lie,  cursed  dog!  What  a  scandalous 
tongue!  As  if  I  did  not  know  that  it  is  envy 
which  prompts  you,  and  that  here  there  is" 
treachery  at  work — yes,  the  treachery  of  the 
chief  clerk.  This  man  hates  me  implacably;  he 
has  plotted  against  me,  he  is  always  seeking  to 
injure  me.  I'll  look  through  one  more  letter; 
perhaps  it  will  make  the  matter  clearer. 

"Fidel,  my  dear,  pardon  me  that  I  have  not 
written  for  so  long.  I  was  floating  in  a  dream 
of  delight.  In  truth,  some  author  remarks, 
1  Love  is  a  second  life.'  Besides,  great  changes 
are  going  on  in  the  house.  The  young  chamber- 
lain is  always  here.  Sophie  is  wildly  in  love  with 
him.  Her  papa  is  quite  contented.  I  heard 
from  Gregor,  who  sweeps  the  floor,  and  is  in 
the  habit  of  talking  to  himself,  that  the  marriage 
will  soon  be  celebrated.  Her  papa  will  at  any 
rate  get  his  daughter  married  to  a  general,  a 
colonel,  or  a  chamberlain." 

Deuce  take  it !  I  can  read  no  more.  It  is 
all  about  chamberlains  and  generals.  I  should 
like  myself  to  be  a  general — not  in  order  to  sue 
for  her  hand  and  all  that — no,  not  at  all;  I 
should  like  to  be  a  general  merely  in  order  to 
see  people  wriggling,  squirming,  and  hatching 
plots  before  me. 

And  then  I  should  like  to  tell  them  that  they 
are  both  of  them  not  worth  spitting  on.     But  it  is 


128        MEMOIRS    OF   A    MADMAN 

vexatious !     I  tear  the  foolish  dog's  letters  up  in 
a  thousand  pieces. 

December  3rd. — It  is  not  possible  that  the 
marriage  should  take  place;  it  is  only  idle  gossip. 
What  does  it  signify  if  he  is  a  chamberlain! 
That  is  only  a  dignity,  not  a  substantial  thing 
which  one  can  see  or  handle.  His  chamberlain's 
office  will  not  procure  him  a  third  eye  in  his 
forehead.  Neither  is  his  nose  made  of  gold;  it 
is  just  like  mine  or  anyone  else's  nose.  He  does 
not  eat  and  cough,  but  smells  and  sneezes  with 
it.  I  should  like  to  get  to  the  bottom  of  the 
mystery — whence  do  all  these  distinctions  come? 
Why  am  I  only  a  titular  councillor? 

Perhaps  I  am  really  a  count  or  a  general,  and 
only  appear  to  be  a  titular  councillor.  Perhaps 
I  don't  even  know  who  and  what  I  am.  How 
many  cases  there  are  in  history  of  a  simple 
gentleman,  or  even  a  burgher  or  peasant*  sud- 
denly turning  out  to  be  a  great  lord  or 
baron?  Well,  suppose  that  I  appear  suddenly 
in  a  general's  uniform,  on  the  right  shoulder  an 
epaulette,  on  the  left  an  epaulette,  and  a  blue 
sash  across  my  breast,  what  sort  of  a  tune  would 
my  beloved  sing  then?  What  would  her  papa, 
our  director,  say?  Oh,  he  is  ambitious !  He  is 
a  freemason,  certainly  a  freemason;  however 
much  he  may  conceal  it,  I  have  found  it  out. 
When  he  gives  anyone  his  hand,  he  only  reaches 


MEMOIES    OF    A    MADMAN        129 

out  two  fingers.  Well,  could  not  I  this  minute 
be  nominated  a  general  or  a  superintendent?  I 
should  like  to  know  why  I  am  a  titular  councillor 
— why  just  th.at,  and  nothing  more? 

December  bth. — To-day  I  have  been  reading 
papers  the  whole  morning.  Very  strange  things 
are  happening  in  Spain.  I  have  not  understood 
them  all.  It  is  said  that  the  throne  is  vacant, 
the  representatives  of  the  people  are  in  diffi- 
culties about  finding  an  occupant,  and  riots  are 
taking  place. 

All  this  appears  to  me  very  strange.  How  can 
the  throne  be  vacant?  It  is  said  that  it  will  be 
occupied  by  a  woman.  A  woman  cannot  sit  on 
a  throne.  That  is  impossible.  Only  a  king  can 
sit  on  a  throne.  They  say  that  there  is  no  king 
there,  but  that  is  not  possible.  There  cannot  be 
a  kingdom  without  a  king.  There  must  be  a 
king,  but  he  is  hidden  away  somewhere.  Per- 
haps he  is  actually  on  the  spot,  and  only  some 
domestic  complications,  or  fears  of  the  neigh- 
bouring Powers,  France  and  other  countries, 
compel  him  to  remain  in  concealment;  there 
might  also  be  other  reasons. 

December  &th. — I  was  nearly  going  to  the 
office,  but  various  considerations  kept  me  from 
doing  so.  I  keep  on  thinking  about  these 
Spanish  affairs.  How  is  it  possible  that  a  woman 
should   reign?     It  would    not  be  allowed,    es- 


130        MEMOIES    OF    A    MADMAN 

pecially  by  England.  In  the  rest  of  Europe  the 
political  situation  is  also  critical ;  the  Emperor  of 
Austria 

These  events,  to  tell  the  truth,  have  so  shaken 
and  shattered  me,  that  I  could  really  do  nothing 
all  day.  Mawra  told  me  that  I  was  very  absent- 
minded  at  table.  In  fact,  in  my  absent-minded- 
ness I  threw  two  plates  on  the  ground  so  that 
they  broke  in  pieces. 

After  dinner  I  felt  weak,  and  did  not  feel  up 
to  making  abstracts  of  reports.  I  lay  most  of 
the  time  on  my  bed,  and  thought  of  the  Spanish 
affairs. 

The  year  2000  :  April  43rd. — To-day  is  a  day 
of  splendid  triumph.  Spain  has  a  king;  he  has 
been  found,  and  I  am  he.  I  discovered  it  to- 
day ;  all  of  a  sudden  it  came  upon  me  like  a  flash 
of  lightning. 

I  do  not  understand  how  I  could  imagine, that 
I  am  a  titular  councillor.  How  could  such  a 
foolish  idea  enter  my  head?  It  was  fortunate 
that  it  occurre_d  to  no  one  to  shut  me  up  in  an 
asylum.  Now  it  is  all  clear,  and  as  plain  as 
a  pikestaff.  Formerly — I  don't  know  why — 
everything  seemed  veiled  in  a  kind  of  mist. 
That  is,  I  believe,  because  people  think  that  the 
human  brain  is  in  the  head.  Nothing  of  the 
sort ;  it  is  carried  by  the  wind  from  the  Caspian 
Sea. 


MEMOIES    OF    A    MADMAN        131 

.For  the  first  time  I  told  Mawra  who  I  am. 
When  she  learned  that  the  king  of  Spain  stood 
before  her,  she  struck  her  hands  together 
over  her  head,  and  nearly  died  of  alarm.  The 
stupid  thing  had  never  seen  the  king  of  Spain 
before ! 

I  comforted  her,  however,  at  once  by  assuring 
her  that  I  was  not  angry  with  her  for  having 
hitherto  cleaned  my  boots  badly.  Women  are 
stupid  things;  one  cannot  interest  them  in 
lofty  subjects.  She  was  frightened  because  she 
thought  all  kings  of  Spain  were  like  Philip  II. 
But  I  explained  to  her  that  there  was  a  great 
difference  between  me  and  him.  I  did  not  go 
to  the  office.  Why  the  deuce  should  I?  No,  my 
dear  friends,  you  won't  get  me  there  again !  I 
am  not  going  to  worry  myself  with  your  infernal 
documents  any  more. 

Marchember  86.  Between  day  and  night. — 
To-day  the  office-messenger  came  and  summoned 
me,  as  I  had  not  been  there  for  three  weeks.  I 
went  just  for  the  fun  of  the  thing.  The  chief 
clerk  thought  I  would  bow  humbly  before  him, 
and  make  excuses;  but  I  looked  at  him  quite 
indifferently,  neither  angrily  nor  mildly,  and  sat 
down  quietly  at  my  place  as  though  I  noticed  no 
one.  I  looked  at  all  this  rabble  of  scribblers, 
and  thought,  "  If  you  only  knew  who  is  sitting 
among  you !     Good  heavens  !  what  a  to-do  you 


132        MEMOIRS    OF    A    MADMAN 

would  make.  Even  the  chief  clerk  would  bow 
himself  to  the  earth  before  me  as  he  does  now 
before  the  director.' ■ 

A  pile  of  reports  was  laid  before  me,  of  which 
to  make  abstracts,  but  I  did  not  touch  them  with 
one  finger. 

After  a  little  time  there  was  a  commotion  in 
the  office,  and  there  a  report  went  round  that  the 
director  was  coming.  Many  of  the  clerks  vied 
with  each  other  to  attract  his  notice ;  but  I  did  not 
stir.  As  he  came  through  our  room,  each  one 
hastily  buttoned  up  his  coat;  but  I  had  no  idea 
of  doing  anything  of  the  sort.  What  is  the 
director  to  me?  Should  I  stand  up  before  him? 
Never.  What  sort  of  a  director  is  he?  He  is  a 
bottle-stopper,  and  no  director.  A  quite  ordi- 
nary, simple  bottle-stopper — nothing  more.  I 
felt  quite  amused  as  they  gave  me  a  document 
to  sign. 

They  thought  I  would  simply  put  down  my 
name— "  So-and-so,  Clerk."  Why  not?  But 
at  the  top  of  the  sheet,  where  the  director  gener- 
ally writes  his  name,  I  inscribed  '  '  Ferdinand 
Yin."  in  bold  characters.  You  should  have 
seen  what  a  reverential  silence  ensued.  But 
I  made  a  gesture  with  my  hand,  and  said, 
' '  Gentlemen,  no  ceremony  please !  • '  Then  I 
went  out,  and  took  my  way  straight  to  the 
director's  house. 

He  was  not  at  home.     The  flunkey  wanted  not 


MEMOIES    OF   A    MADMAN        133 

to  let  me  in,  but  I  talked  to  him  in  such  a  way 
that  he  soon  dropped  his  arms. 

I  went  straight  to  Sophie's  dressing-room. 
She  sat  before  the  mirror.  When  she  saw  me, 
she  sprang  up  and  took  a  step  backwards;  but  I 
did  not  tell  her  that  I  was  the  king  of  Spain. 

But  I  told  her  that  a  happiness  awaited  her, 
beyond  her  power  to  imagine;  and  that  in  spite 
of  all  our  enemies'  devices  we  should  be  united. 
That  was  all  which  I  wished  to  say  to  her,  and  I 
went  out.  Oh,  what  cunning  creatures  these 
women  are  !  Now  I  have  found  out  what  woman 
really  is.  Hitherto  no  one  knew  whom  a  woman 
really  loves;  I  am  the  first  to  discover  it — she 
loves  the  devil.  Yes,  joking  apart,  learned  men 
write  nonsense  when  they  pronounce  that  she  is 
this  and  that;  she  loves  the  devil — that  is  all. 
You  see  a  woman  looking  through  her  lorgnette 
from  a  box  in  the  front  row.  One  thinks  she  is 
watching  that  stout  gentleman  who  wears  an 
order.  Not  a  bit  of  it!  She  is  watching  the 
devil  who  stands  behind  his  back.  He  has 
hidden  himself  there^and  beckons  to  her  with 
his  finger.  And  she  marries  him — actually — she 
marries  him ! 

That  is  all  ambition,  and  the  reason  is  that 
there  is  under  the  tongue  a  little  blister  in  which 
there  is  a  little  worm  of  the  size  of  a  pin's  head. 
And  this  is  constructed  by  a  barber  in  Bean 
Street;    I    don't   remember    his    name    at    the 


134        MEMOIRS    OF   A    MADMAN 

moment,  but  so  much  is  certain  that,  in  con- 
junction with  a  midwife,  he  wants  to  spread 
Mohammedanism  all  over  the  world,  and  that  in 
consequence  of  this  a  large  number  of  people  in 
France  have  already  adopted  the  faith  of  Islam. 

No  date.  The  day  had  no  date. — I  went  for 
a  walk  incognito  on  the  Nevski  Prospect.  I 
avoided  every  appearance  of  being  the  king  of 
Spain.  I  felt  it  below  my  dignity  to  let  myself 
be  recognised  by  the  whole  world,  since  I  must 
first  present  myself  at  court.  And  I  was  also 
restrained  by  the  fact  that  I  have  at  present  no 
Spanish  national  costume.  If  I  could  only  get 
a  cloak !  I  tried  to  have  a  consultation  with  a 
tailor,  but  these  people  are  real  asses !  More- 
over, they  neglect  their  business,  dabble  in 
speculation,  and  have  become  loafers.  I  will 
have  a  cloak  made  out  of  my  new  official  uniform 
which  I  have  only  worn  twice.  But  to  prevent 
this  botcher  of  a  tailor  spoiling  it,  I  will  make  it 
myself  with  closed  doors,  so  that  no  one  sees 
me.  Since  the  cut  must  be  altogether  altered, 
I  have  used  the  scissors  myself. 

I  don't  remember  the  date.  The  devil  knows 
what  month  it  was.  The  cloak  is  quite  ready. 
Mawra  exclaimed  aloud  when  I  put  it  on.  I 
will,  however,  not  present  myself  at  court  yet; 
the  Spanish  deputation  has  not  yet  arrived.  It 
would  not  be  befitting  if  I  appeared  without 


MEMOIES    OF    A    MADMAN        135 

them.     My  appearance  would  be  less  imposing. 
From  hour  to  hour  I  expect  them. 

The  1st. — The  extraordinary  long  delay  of  the 
deputies  in  coming  astonishes  me.  What  can 
possibly  keep  them?  Perhaps  France  has  a  hand 
in  the  matter;  it  is  certainly  hostilely  inclined. 
I  went  to  the  post  office  to  inquire  whether  the 
Spanish  deputation  had  come.  The  postmaster 
is  an  extraordinary  blockhead  who  knows 
nothing.  "No,5'  he  said  to  me,  "  there  is  no 
Spanish  deputation  here ;  but  if  you  want  to  send 
them  a  letter,  we  will  forward  it  at  the  fixed 
rate."  The  deuce!  What  do  I  want  with  a 
letter?  Letters  are.  nonsense.  Letters  are 
written  by  apothecaries.   .   .  . 

Madrid,  February  30th. — So  I  am  in  Spain 
after  all!  It  has  happened  so  quickly  that  I 
could  hardly  take  it  in.  The  Spanish  deputies 
came  early  this  morning,  and  I  got  with  them 
into  the  carriage.  This  unexpected  promptness 
seemed  to  me  strange.  We  drove  so  quickly 
that  in  half  an  hour  we  were  at  the  Spanish 
frontier.  Over  all  Europe  now  there  are  cast- 
iron  roads,  and  the  steamers  go  very  fast.  A 
wonderful  country,  this  Spain! 

As  we  entered  the  first  room,  I  saw  numerous 
persons  with  shorn  heads.  I  guessed  at  once 
that  they  must  be  either  grandees  or  soldiers,  at 
least  to  judge  by  their  shorn  heads. 


136        MEMOIES    OF   A    MADMAN 

The  Chancellor  of  the  State,  who  led  me  by 
the  hand,  seemed  to  me  to  behave  in  a  very 
strange  way;  he  pushed  me  into  a  little  room 
and  said,  "Stay  here,  and  if  you  call  yourself 
'  King  Ferdinand  '  again,  I  will  drive  the  wish 
to  do  so  out  of  you." 

I  knew,  however,  that  that  was  only  a  test, 
and  I  reasserted  my  conviction;  on  which  the 
Chancellor  gave  me  two  such  severe  blows  with 
a  stick  on  the  back,  that  I  could  have  cried  out 
with  the  pain.  But  I  restrained  myself,  remem- 
bering that  this  was  a  usual  ceremony  of  old- 
time  chivalry  when  one  was  inducted  into  a  high 
position,  and  in  Spain  the  laws  of  chivalry 
prevail  up  to  the  present  day.  When  I  was 
alone,  I  determined  to  study  State  affairs;  I 
discovered  that  Spain  and  China  are  one  and  the 
same  country,  and  it  is  only  through  ignorance 
that  people  regard  them  as  separate  kingdoms. 
I  advice  everyone  urgently  to  write  down  the 
word  "  Spain  "ona  sheet  of  paper;  he  will  see 
that  it  is  quite  the  same  as  China. 

But  I  feel  much  annoyed  by  an  event  which  is 
about  to  take  place  to-morrow;  at  seven  o'clock 
the  earth  is  going  to  sit  on  the  moon.  This  is 
foretold  by  the  famous  English  chemist,  Wel- 
lington. To  tell  the  truth,  I  often  felt  uneasy 
when  I  thought  of  the  excessive  brittleness  and 
fragility  of  the  moon.  The  moon  is  generally 
repaired  in  Hamburg,  and  very  imperfectly.     It 


MEMOIKS   OF  A   MADMAN        137 

is  done  by  a  lame  cooper,  an  obvious  blockhead 
who  has  no  idea  how  to  do  it.  He  took  waxed 
thread  and  olive-oil — hence  that  pungent  smell 
over  all  the  earth  which  compels  people  to  hold 
their  noses.  And  this  makes  the  moon  so  fragile 
that  no  men  can  live  on  it,  but  only  noses. 
Therefore  we  cannot  see  our  noses,  because  they 
are  on  the  moon. 

When  I  now  pictured  to  myself  how  the  earth, 
that  massive  body,  would  crush  our  noses  to 
dust,  if  it  sat  on  the  moon,  I  became  so  uneasy, 
that  I  immediately  put  on  my  shoes  and  stock- 
ings and  hastened  into  the  council-hall  to  give 
the  police  orders  to  prevent  the  moon  sitting  on 
the  earth. 

The  grandees  with  the  shorn  heads,  whom 
I  met  in  great  numbers  in  the  hall,  were 
very  intelligent  people,  and  when  I  exclaimed, 
1 '  Gentlemen !  let  us  save  the  moon,  for  the  earth 
is  going  to  sit  on  it,"  they  all  set  to  work  to  fulfil 
my  imperial  wish,  and  many  of  them  clambered 
up  the  wall  in  order  to  take  the  moon  down. 
At  that  moment  the  Imperial  Chancellor  came  in. 
As  soon  as  he  appeared,  they  all  scattered,  but  I 
alone,  as  king,  remained.  To  my  astonishment, 
however,  the  Chancellor  beat  me  with  the  stick 
and  drove  me  to  my  room.  So  powerful  are 
ancient  customs  in  Spain ! 

January  in  the  same  year,   following    after 


138  MEMOIRS  OF  A  MADMAN 
February.— I  can  never  understand  what  kind 
of  a  country  this  Spain  really  is.  The  popular 
customs  and  rules  of  court  etiquette  are  quite 
extraordinary.  I  do  not  understand  them  at  all, 
at  all.  To-day  my  head  was  shorn,  although  I 
exclaimed  as  loudly  as  I  could,  that  I  did 
not  want  to  be  a  monk.  What  happened  after- 
wards, when  they  began  to  let  cold  water  trickle 
on  my  head,  I  do  not  know.  I  have  never 
experienced  such  hellish  torments.  I  nearly 
went  mad,  and  they  had  difficulty  in  holding  me. 
The  significance  of  this  strange  custom  is  entirely 
hidden  from  me.  It  is  a  very  foolish  and  un- 
reasonable one. 

Nor  can  I  understand  the  stupidity  of  the  kings 
who  have  not  done  away  with  it  before  now. 
Judging  by  all  the  circumstances,  it  seems  to  me 
as  though  I  had  fallen  into  the  hands  of  the 
Inquisition,  and  as  though  the  man  whom  I  took 
to  be  the  Chancellor  was  the  Grand  Inquisitor. 
But  yet  I  cannot  understand  how  the  king  could 
fall  into  the  hands  of  the  Inquisition.  The  affair 
may  have  been  arranged  by  France — especially 
Polignac — he  is  a  hound,  that  Polignac !  He 
has  sworn  to  compass  my  death,  and  now  he  is 
hunting  me  down.  But  I  know,  my  friend,  that 
you  are  only  a  tool  of  the  English.  They  are 
clever  fellows,  and  have  a  finger  in  every  pie. 
All  the  world  knows  that  France  sneezes  when 
England  takes  a  pinch  of  snuff. 


MEMOIES   OF  A   MADMAN        139 

The  25th. — To-day  the  Grand  Inquisitor  came 
into  my  room;  when  I  heard  his  steps  in  the 
distance,  I  hid  myself  under  a  chair.  When 
he  did  not  see  me,  he  began  to  call.  At  first  he 
called  "  Poprishchin !  ' '  I  made  no  answer. 
Then  he  called  ' '  Axanti  Ivanovitch !  Titular 
Councillor!  Nobleman!  "  I  still  kept  silence. 
"  Ferdinand  the  Eighth,  King  of  Spain!  "  I 
was  on  the  point  of  putting  out  my  head,  but  I 
thought,  ' '  No,  brother,  you  shall  not  deceive 
me !  You  shall  not  pour  water  on  my  head 
again!  " 

But  he  had  already  seen  me  and  drove  me  from 
under  the  chair  with  his  stick.  The  cursed  stick 
really  hurts  one.  But  the  following  discovery 
compensated  me  for  all  the  pain,  i.e.  that  every 
cock  has  his  Spain  under  his  feathers.  The 
Grand  Inquisitor  went  angrily  away,  and  threat- 
ened me  with  some  punishment  or  other.  I  felt 
only  contempt  for  his  powerless  spite,  for  I  know 
that  he  only  works  like  a  machine,  like  a  tool  of 
the  English. 

34  March.  February,  349. — No,  I  have  no 
longer  power  to  endure.  0  God !  what  are  they 
going  to  do  with  me  ?  They  pour  cold  water  on 
my  head.  They  take  no  notice  of  me,  and  seem 
neither  to  see  nor  hear.  Why  do  they  torture 
me?  What  do  they  want  from  one  so  wretched 
as  myself?    What  can  I  give  them?    I  possess 


140        MEMOIES   OF  A   MADMAN 

nothing.  I  cannot  bear  all  their  tortures;  my 
head  aches  as  though  everything  were  turning 
round  in  a  circle.  Save  me  !  Carry  me  away ! 
Give  me  three  steeds  swift  as  the  wind !  Mount 
your  seat,  coachman,  ring  bells,  gallop  horses, 
and  carry  me  straight  out  of  this  world.  Farther, 
ever  farther,  till  nothing  more  is  to  be  seen ! 

Ah !  the  heaven  bends  over  me  already ;  a  star 
glimmers  in  the  distance ;  the  forest  with  its  dark 
trees  in  the  moonlight  rushes  past ;  a  bluish  mist 
floats  under  my  feet ;  music  sounds  in  the  cloud ; 
on  the  one  side  is  the  sea,  on  the  other,  Italy; 
beyond  I  also  see  Eussian  peasants'  houses.  Is 
not  my  parents'  house  there  in  the  distance? 
Does  not  my  mother  sit  by  the  window?  0 
mother,  mother,  save  your  unhappy  son !  Let  a 
tear  fall  on  his  aching  head!  See  how  they 
torture  him!  Press  the  poor  orphan  to  your 
bosom  !  He  has  no  rest  in  this  world ;  they  hunt 
him  from  place  to  place. 

Mother,  mother,  have  pity  on  your  sick  child ! 
And  do  you  know  that  the  Bey  of  Algiers  has  a 
wart  under  his  nose? 


A    MAY    NIGHT 


Songs  were  echoing  in  the  village  street.  It 
was  just  the  time  when  the  young  men  and  girls, 
tired  with  the  work  and  cares  of  the  day,  were 
in  the  habit  of  assembling  for  the  dance.  In  the 
mild  evening  light,  cheerful  songs  blended  with 
mild  melodies.  A  mysterious  twilight  obscured 
the  blue  sky  and  made  everything  seem  indis- 
tinct and  distant.  It  was  growing  dark,  but  the 
songs  were  not  hushed. 

A  young  Cossack,  Levko  by  name,  the  son  of 
the  village  headman,  had  stolen  away  from  the 
singers,  guitar  in  hand.  With  his  embroidered 
cap  set  awry  on  his  head,  and  his  hand  playing 
over  the  strings,  he  stepped  a  measure  to  the 
music.  Then  he  stopped  at  the  door  of  a  house 
half  hidden  by  blossoming  cherry-trees.  Whose 
house  was  it?  To  whom  did  the  door  lead? 
After  a  little  while  he  played  and  sang : 

"  The  night  is  nigh,  the  sun  is  down, 
Come  out  to  me,  my  love,  my  own!  " 
141 


142  A   MAY   NIGHT 

"No  one  is  there;  my  bright-eyed  beauty  is 
fast  asleep/'  said  the  Cossack  to  himself  as  he 
finished  the  song  and  approached  the  window. 
"Hanna,  Hanna,  are  you  asleep,  or  won't  you 
come  to  me?  Perhaps  you  are  afraid  someone 
will  see  us,  or  will  not  expose  your  delicate  face 
to  the  cold!  Fear  nothing!  The  evening  is 
warm,  and  there  is  no  one  near.  And  if  anyone 
comes  I  will  wrap  you  in  my  caftan,  fold  you  in 
my  arms,  and  no  one  will  see  us.  And  if  the  wind 
blows  cold,  I  will  press  you  close  to  my  heart, 
warm  you  with  my  kisses,  and  lay  my  cap  on  your 
tiny  feet,  my  darling.  Only  throw  me  a  single 
glance.  No,  you  are  not  asleep,  you  proud 
thing !  ' '  he  exclaimed  now  louder,  in  a  voice 
which  betrayed  his  annoyance  at  the  humiliation. 
"You  are  laughing  at  me!     Good-bye!" 

Then  he  turned  away,  set  his  cap  jauntily,  and, 
still  lightly  touching  his  guitar,  stepped  back 
from  the  window.  Just  then  the  wooden  handle 
of  the  door  turned  with  a  grating  noise,  and  a  girl 
who  counted  hardly  seventeen  springs  looked 
out  timidly  through  the  darkness,  and  still  keep- 
ing hold  of  the  handle,  stepped  over  the  thres- 
hold. In  the  twilight  her  bright  eyes  shone  like 
little  stars,  her  coral  necklace  gleamed,  and  the 
pink  flush  on  her  cheeks  did  not  escape  the 
Cossack's  observation. 

"How  impatient  you  are!"  she  said  in  a 
whisper.     "You  get  angry  so  quickly!     Why 


A    MAY    NIGHT  143 

did  you  choose  such  a  time?     There  are  crowds 
of  people  in  the  street.  ...  I  tremble  all  over." 

"  Don't  tremble,  my  darling!  Come  close 
to  me!"  said  the  Cossack,  putting  down  his 
guitar,  which  hung  on  a  long  strap  round  his 
neck,  and  sitting  down  with  her  on  the  door- 
step. ' '  You  know  I  find  it  hard  to  be  only  an 
hour  without  seeing  you." 

"Do  you  know  what  I  am  thinking  of?" 
interrupted  the  young  girl,  looking  at  him 
thoughtfully.  "  Something  whispers  to  me  that 
we  shall  not  see  so  much  of  each  other  in  the 
future.  The  people  here  are  not  well  disposed 
to  you,  the  girls  look  so  envious,  and  the  young 
fellows.  ...  I  notice  also  that  my  mother 
watches  me  carefully  for  some  time  past.  I 
must  confess  I  was  happier  when  among 
strangers."  Her  face  wore  a  troubled  expres- 
sion as  she  spoke. 

*  You  are  only  two  months  back  at  home, 
and  are  already  tired  of  it!  "  said  the  Cossack. 
1 '  And  of  me  too  perhaps  ?  '  * 

"Oh  no!"  she  replied,  smiling.  "I  love 
you,  you  black-eyed  Cossack !  I  love  you  be- 
cause of  your  dark  eyes,  and  my  heart  laughs 
in  my  breast  when  you  look  at  me.  I  feel  so 
happy  when  you  come  down  the  street  stroking 
your  black  moustache,  and  enjoy  listening  to 
your  song  when  you  play  the  guitar !  ' ' 

"Oh  my  Hanna ! "   exclaimed  the  Cossack, 


144  A    MAY    NIGHT 

kissing    the    girl    and    drawing    her   closer    to 
him. 

Stop,  Levko !     Tell  me  whether  you  have 
spoken  to  your  father?  " 

"About  what?"  he  answered  absent- 
mindedly.  "About  my  marrying  you?  Yes, 
I  did."  But  he  seemed  to  speak  almost 
reluctantly. 

"Well?    What  more?" 

"What  can  you  make  of  him?  The  old 
curmudgeon  pretends  to  be  deaf;  he  will  not 
listen  to  anything,  and  blames  me  for  loafing  with 
fellows,  as  he  says,  about  the  streets.  But  don't 
worry,  Hanna !  I  give  you  my  word  as  a 
Cossack,  I  will  break  his  obstinacy." 

* '  You  only  need  to  say  a  word,  Levko,  and  it 
shall  be  as  you  wish.  I  know  that  of  myself. 
Often  I  do  not  wish  to  obey  you,  but  you  speak 
only  a  word,  and  I  involuntarily  do  what  you 
wish.  Look,  look!"  she  continued,  laying  her 
head  on  his  shoulder  and  raising  her  eyes  to  the 
sky,  the  immeasurable  heaven  of  the  Ukraine; 
"  there  far  away  are  twinkling  little  stars — one, 
two,  three,  four,  five.  Is  it  not  true  that  those 
are  angels  opening  the  windows  of  their  bright 
little  homes  and  looking  down  on  us.  Is  it  not 
so,  Levko?  They  are  looking  down  on  earth.  If 
men  had  wings  like  birds,  how  high  they  could 
fly.  But  ah !  not  even  our  oaks  reach  the  sky. 
Still  people  say  there  is  in  some  distant  land  a 


A    MAY    NIGHT  145 

tree  whose  top  reaches  to  heaven,  and  that  God 
descends  by  it  on  the  earth,  the  night  before 
Easter." 

"No,  Hanna.  God  has  a  long  ladder  which 
reaches  from  heaven  to  earth.  Before  Easter 
Sunday  holy  angels  set  it  up,  and  as  soon  as  God 
puts  His  foot  on  the  first  rung,  all  evil  spirits 
take  to  flight  and  fall  in  swarms  into  hell.  That 
is  why  on  Easter  Day  there  are  none  of  them  on 
earth." 

11  How  gently  the  water  ripples !  Like  a  child 
in  the  cradle,"  continued  Hanna,  pointing  to  the 
pool  begirt  by  dark  maples  and  weeping-willows, 
whose  melancholy  branches  drooped  in  the 
water.  On  a  hill  near  the  wood  slumbered  an 
old  house  with  closed  shutters.  The  roof  was 
covered  with  moss  and  weeds;  leafy  apple-trees 
had  grown  high  up  before  the  windows ;  the  wood 
cast  deep  shadows  on  it;  a  grove  of  nut-trees 
spread  from  the  foot  of  the  hill  as  far  as  the  pool. 

"  I  remember  as  if  in  a  dream,"  said  Hanna, 
keeping  her  eyes  fixed  on  the  house,  "a  long, 
long  time  ago,  when  I  was  little  and  lived  with 
mother,  someone  told  a  terrible  story  about  this 
house.     You  must  know  it — tell  me." 

11  God  forbid,  my  dear  child!  Old  women 
and  stupid  people  talk  a  lot  of  nonsense.  It 
would  only  frighten  you  and  spoil  your  sleep." 

"Tell  me,  my  darling,  my  black-eyed 
Cossack,"  she  said,  pressing  her  cheek  to  his. 

K 


146  A   MAY   NIGHT 

"No,  you  don't  love  me;  you  have  certainly 
another  sweetheart!  I  will  not  be  frightened, 
and  will  sleep  quite  quietly.  If  you  refuse  to  tell 
me,  that  would  keep  me  awake.  I  would  keep 
on  worrying  and  thinking  about  it.  Tell  me, 
Levko!"- 

"  Certainly  it  is  true  what  people  say,  that  the 
devil  possesses  girls,  and  stirs  up  their  curiosity. 
Well  then,  listen.  Long  ago  there  lived  in 
that  house  an  elderly  man  who  had  a  beautiful 
daughter  white  as  snow,  just  like  you.  His  wife 
had  been  dead  a  long  time,  and  he  was  thinking 
of  marrying  again. 

' '  '  Will  you  pet  me  as  before,  father,  if  you 
take  a  second  wife?'  asked  his  daughter. 

"-Yes,  my  daughter,5  he  answered,  '  I  shall 
love  you  more  than  ever,  and  give  you  yet  more 
rings  and  necklaces.' 

"  So  he  brought  a  young  wife  home,  who  was 
beautiful  and  white  and  red,  but  she  cast  such 
an  evil  glance  at  her  stepdaughter  that  she  cried 
aloud,  but  not  a  word  did  her  sulky  stepmother 
speak  to  her  all  day  long. 

"When  night  came,  and  her  father  and  his 
wife  had  retired,  the  young  girl  locked  herself  up 
in  her  room,  and  feeling  melancholy  began  to 
weep  bitterly.  Suddenly  she  spied  a  hideous 
black  cat  creeping  towards  her ;  its  fur  was  aflame 
and  its  claws  struck  on  the  ground  like  iron,  In 
her  terror  the  girl  sprang  on  a  chair;  the  cat 


A   MAY   NIGHT  147 

followed  her.  Then  she  eprang  into  bed;  the 
cat  sprang  after  her,  and  seizing  her  by 
the  throat  began  to  choke  her.  She  tore  the 
creature  away,  and  flung  it  on  the  ground,  but 
the  terrible  cat  began  to  creep  towards  her  again. 
Eendered  desperate  with  terror,  she  seized  her 
father's  sabre  which  hung  on  the  wall,  and  struck 
at  the  cat,  wounding  one  of  its  paws.  The 
animal  disappeared,  whimpering. 

The  next  day  the  young  wife  did  not  leave 
her  bedroom;  the  third  day  she  appeared  with 
her  hand  bound  up. 

'  *  The  poor  girl  perceived  that  her  stepmother 
was  a  witch,  and  that  she  had  wounded  her 
hand. 

■ '  On  the  fourth  day  her  father  told  her  to 
bring  water,  to  sweep  the  floor  like  a  servant- 
maid,  and  not  to  show  herself  where  he  and  his 
wife  sat.  She  obeyed  him,  though  with  a  heavy 
heart.  On  the  fifth  day  he  drove  her  barefooted 
out  of  the  house,  without  giving  her  any  food 
for  her  journey.  Then  she  began  to  sob  and 
covered  her  face  with  her  hands. 

"  ■  You  have  ruined  your  own  daughter, 
father ! '  she  cried ;  '  and  the  witch  has  ruined 
your  soul.  May  God  forgive  you !  He  will  not 
allow  me  to  live  much  longer.' 

"  And  do  you  see,"  continued  Levko,  turning 
to  Hanna  and  pointing  to  the  house,  "  do  you 
see  that  high  bank;  from  that  bank  she  threw 


148  A   MAY    NIGHT 

herself  into  the  water,  and  has  been  no  more 
seen  on  earth." 

"And  the  witch  ?"  Hanna  interrupted, 
timidly  fastening  her  tearful  eyes  on  him. 

"  The  witch?  Old  women  say  that  when  the 
moon  shines,  all  those  who  have  been  drowned 
come  out  to  warm  themselves  in  its  rays,  and 
that  they  are  led  by  the  witch's  stepdaughter. 
One  night  she  saw  her  stepmother  by  the  pool, 
caught  hold  of  her,  and  dragged  her  screaming 
into  the  water.  But  this  time  also  the  witch 
played  her  a  trick ;  she  changed  herself  into  one 
of  those  who  had  been  drowned,  anl  so  escaped 
the  chastisement  she  would  have  received  at 
their  hands. 

1  i  Let  anyone  who  likes  believe  the  old 
women's  stories.  They  say  that  the  witch's 
stepdaughter  gathers  together  those  who  have 
been  drowned  every  night,  and  looks  in  their 
faces  in  order  to  find  out  which  of  them  is  the 
witch;  but  has  not  done  so  yet.  Such  are  the 
old  wives'  tales.  It  is  said  to  be  the  intention 
of  the  present  owner  to  erect  a  distillery  on  the 
spot.  But  I  hear  voices.  They  are  coming 
home  from  the  dancing.  Good-bye,  Hanna! 
Sleep  well,  and  don't  think  of  all  that  nonsense." 
So  saying  he  embraced  her,  kissed  her,  and 
departed. 

"  Good-bye,  Levko !  "  said  Hanna,  still  gazing 
at  the  dark  pine  wood. 


A   MAY   NIGHT  149 

The  brilliant  moon  was  now  rising  and  filling 
all  the  earth  with  splendour.  The  pool  shone 
like  silver,  and  the  shadows  of  the  trees  stood 
out  in  strong  relief. 

11  Good-bye,  Hanna !  "  she  heard  again  as  she 
spoke,  and  felt  the  light  pressure  of  a  kiss. 

I  { You  have  come  back  !  '  ■  she  said,  looking 
round,  but  started  on  seeing  a  stranger  before 
her. 

There  was  another  "Good-bye,  Hanna !  " 
and  again  she  was  kissed. 

"Has  the  devil  brought  a  second?  "  she 
exclaimed  angrily. 

II  Good-bye,  dear  Hanna !  M 
"  There  is  a  third!" 

"Good-bye,  good-bye,  good-bye,  Hanna!" 
and  kisses  rained  from  all  sides. 

' '  Why,  there  is  a  whole  band  of  them !  ' '  cried 
Hanna,  tearing  herself  from  the  youths  who  had 
gathered  round.  "  Are  they  never  tired  of  the 
eternal  kissing  ?  I  shall  soon  not  be  able  to  show 
myself  on  the  street  t"  So  saying,  she  closed 
the  door  and  bolted  it. 

n 

THE     VILLAGE    HEADMAN 

Do  you  know  a  Ukraine  night  ?  No,  you  do  not 
know  a  night  in  the  Ukraine.  Gaze  your  full 
on  it.  The  moon  shines  in  the  midst  of  the  sky ; 
the  immeasurable  vault  of  heaven  seems  to  have 


150  A   MAY   NIGHT 

expanded  to  infinity ;  the  earth  is  bathed  in  silver 
light;  the  air  is  warm,  voluptuous,  and  redolent 
of  innumerable  sweet  scents.  Divine  night! 
Magical  night!  Motionless,  but  inspired  with 
divine  breath,  the  forests  stand,  casting  enormous 
shadows  and  wrapped  in  complete  darkness. 
Calmly  and  placidly  sleep  the  lakes  surrounded 
by  dark  green  thickets.  The  virginal  groves  of 
the  hawthorns  and  cherry-trees  stretch  their 
roots  timidly  into  the  cool  water;  only  now  and 
then  their  leaves  rustle  unwillingly  when  that 
freebooter,  the  night-wind,  steals  up  to  kiss  them. 
The  whole  landscape  is  hushed  in  slumber; 
but  there  is  a  mysterious  breath  upon  the 
heights.  One  falls  into  a  weird  and  unearthly 
mood,  and  silvery  apparitions  rise  from  the 
depths.  Divine  night !  Magical  night !  Sud- 
denly the  woods,  lakes,  and  steppes  become 
alive.  The  nightingales  of  the  Ukraine  are  sing- 
ing, and  it  seems  as  though  the  moon  itself  were 
listening  to  their  song.  The  village  sleeps  as 
though  under  a  magic  spell;  the  cottages  shine 
in  the  moonlight  against  the  darkness  of  the 
woods  behind  them.  The  songs  grow  silent, 
and  all  is  still.  Only  here  and  there  is  a  glimmer 
of  light  in  some  small  window.  Some  families, 
sitting  up  late,  are  finishing  their  supper  at  the 
thresholds  of  their  houses. 

' '  No,  the  '  gallop  '  is  not  danced  like  that ! 
Now  I  see,  it  does  not  go  properly !     What  did 


A   MAY    NIGHT  151 

my  godfather  tell  me  ?  So  then !  Hop !  tralala ! 
Hop!  tralala!  Hop!  Hop!  Hop!"  Thus 
a  half-intoxicated,  middle-aged  Cossack  talked 
to  himself  as  he  danced  through  the  street. 
*  *  By  heaven,  a  '  gallop  '  is  not  danced  like  that ! 
What  is  the  use  of  lying!  On  with  it  then! 
Hop!  tralala!  Hop!  tralala!  Hop!  Hop! 
Hop!" 

1 '  See  that  fool  there !  If  he  were  only  a 
young  fellow  !  But  to  see  a  grown  man  dancing, 
and  the  children  laughing  at  him/'  exclaimed  an 
old  woman  who  was  passing  by,  carrying  a 
bundle  of  straw.  "  Go  home !  It  is  quite  time 
to  go  to  sleep!  " 

"I  am  going!"  said  the  Cossack,  standing 
still.  "  I  am  going.  What  do  I  care  about  the 
headman?  He  thinks  because  he  is  the  eldest, 
and  throws  cold  water  on  people,  and  carries  his 
head  high.     As  to  being  headman — I  myself  am 

a  headman.     Yes  indeed — otherwise "     As 

he  spoke,  he  stepped  up  to  the  door  of  the  first 
cottage  he  came  to,  stood  at  the  window,  drum- 
ming with  his  fingers  on  the  glass,  and  feeling 
for  the  door-handle.  "  Woman,  open!  Woman, 
open  quickly  I  tell  you !  It  is  time  for  me  to  go 
to  sleep ! ' ' 

"  Where  are  you  going,  Kalenik?  That  is 
the  wrong  house!  "  some  young  girls  who  were 
returning  from  the  dance  called  to  him  as  they 
passed.     "  Shall  we  show  you  yours?  r 


152  A   MAY   NIGHT 

"Yes,  please,  ladies!5' 

* l  Ladies  !  Just  listen  to  him ! ' '  one  of  them 
exclaimed.  "How  polite  Kalenik  is!  We  will 
show  you  the  house — but  no,  first  dance  before 
us!" 

'  Dance  before  you?  Oh,  you  are  clever 
girls ! ' '  said  Kalenik  in  a  drawling  voice,  and 
laughing.  He  threatened  them  with  his  finger, 
and  stumbled,  not  being  able  to  stand  steadily. 
"  And  will  you  let  yourselves  be  kissed?  I  will 
kiss  the  lot."  With  tottering  steps  he  began  to 
run  after  them. 

The  girls  cried  out  and  rati  apart;  but  they 
soon  plucked  up  courage  and  went  on  the  other 
side  of  the  road,  when  they  saw  that  Kalenik 
was  not  firm  on  his  legs. 

* '  There  is  your  house ! ' '  they  called  to  him, 
pointing  to  one  which  was  larger  than  the  rest, 
and  which  belonged  to  the  village  headman. 

Kalenik  turned  towards  it,  and  began  again 
to  revile  the  headman. 

But  who  is  this  headman  to  whose  disadvantage 
so  much  has  been  said?  Oh,  he  is  a  very 
important  person  in  the  village.  Before  Kalenik 
reaches  his  house,  we  shall  doubtless  find  enough 
time  to  say  something  about  him.  Everyone  in 
the  village  takes  off  his  cap  at  the  sight  of  him, 
and  even  the  smallest  girls  wish  him  good 
morning.  Which  of  the  young  Cossacks  would 
not  like  to  be  a  headman?    The  headman  has 


A   MAY   NIGHT  153 

an  entry  everywhere,  and  every  stalwart  rustic 
stands  respectfully,  cap  in  hand,  so  long  as  the 
headman  feels  round  his  snuff-box  with  his  thick, 
coarse  finger.  In  parish-meetings  and  other 
assemblies,  although  his  power  may  be  limited 
by  the  votes  of  the  majority,  the  headman  still 
maintains  the  upper  hand,  and  sends  whom 
he  chooses  to  make  roads  or  dig  ditches.  In 
outward  manners  he  is  morose  and  severe,  and 
not  fond  of  talking.  Long  ago,  when  the 
Empress  Catherine  of  blessed  memory  journeyed 
to  the  Crimea,  he  was  chosen  as  one  of  her 
escort  for  two  whole  days,  and  had  the  high 
honour  of  sitting  with  the  imperial  coachman  on 
the  box. 

Since  then  the  headman  has  formed  the  habit 
of  shaking  his  head  solemnly  and  thoughtfully, 
of  stroking  his  long,  drooping  moustache,  and  of 
darting  hawk-like  glances  from  his  eyes.  What- 
ever the  topic  of  conversation  may  be,  he 
manages  to  refer  to  his  having  accompanied  the 
Empress,  and  sat  on  the  box  of  the  imperial 
coach.  He  often  pretends  to  be  hard  of  hearing, 
especially  when  he  hears  something  that  he  does 
not  like.  He  has  an  aversion  for  dandies,  and 
himself  wears  under  a  black  caftan  of  cloth,  made 
at  home,  a  simple,  embroidered,  woollen  waist- 
band. No  one  has  seen  him  wear  any  other 
dress  except,  of  course,  on  the  occasion  of  the 
Czarina's  journey  to  the  Crimea,  when  he  wore  a 


154  A   MAY   NIGHT 

blue  Cossack's  uniform.  Hardly  anyone  in  the 
village  remembers  that  time,  and  he  keeps  the 
uniform  packed  up  in  a  chest. 

The  headman  is  a  widower,  but  his  sister-in- 
law  lives  with  him.  She  cooks  his  dinner  and 
supper,  keeps  the  house  and  furniture  clean, 
weaves  linen,  and  acts  as  housekeeper  generally. 
The  village  gossips  say  that  she  is  not  a  relation 
of  his ;  but  we  must  remark  that  the  headman  has 
many  enemies  who  spread  all  kinds  of  slanders 
about  him.  We  have  now  said  what  we  con- 
sidered to  be  necessary  about  the  headman,  and 
the  drunken  Kalenik  is  not  yet  half-way  to  his 
house.  He  continued  to  abuse  the  headman  in 
terms  which  might  be  expected  from  one  in  his 
condition. 

Ill 

AN    UNEXPECTED    RIVAL — THE    CONSPIRACY 

"No,  you  fellows,  I  won't.  What  is  the 
good  of  all  those  silly  goings-on?  Aren't  you 
tired  of  these  foolish  jokes  ?  People  already  call 
us  good-for-nothing  scapegraces.  Better  go  to 
bed !  "  So  Levko  said  one  evening  to  his  com- 
panions, who  were  trying  to  persuade  him  to 
take  part  with  them  in  further  practical  jokes. 
"Farewell,  brothers!  Good  night!"  he  said, 
and  left  them  with  quick  steps. 

"Does  my   bright-eyed  Hanna  sleep?"  he 


A   MAY   NIGHT  155 

thought  as  he  passed  the  house  shaded  by  the 
cherry-trees.  Then  in  the  silence  he  heard 
the  sound  of  a  whispered  conversation.  Levko 
stood  still.  Between  the  trees  there  glimmered 
something  white.  "  What  is  that?  "  he  thought, 
as  he  crept  closer  and  hid  himself  behind  a  tree. 

By  the  light  of  the  moon  he  saw  the  face  of  a 
girl  standing  opposite  him.  It  was  Hanna.  But 
who  was  the  tall  man  who  had  his  back  turned  to 
him?  In  vain  he  strained  his  eyes;  the  whole 
figure  was  hidden  in  shadow,  and  the  slightest 
forward  step  on  Levko' s  part  would  expose  him 
to  the  risk  of  discovery.  He  therefore  leant 
quietly  against  the  tree,  and  determined  to 
remain  where  he  was.  Then  he  heard  the  girl 
utter  his  name  distinctly. 

1 '  Levko  ?  Levko  is  a  baby, ' '  said  the  tall  man 
in  an  undertone.  "  If  I  ever  find  him  with  you, 
I  will  pull  his  hair." 

'  *  I  should  like  to  know  what  rascal  is  boasting 
of  pulling  my  hair,"  said  Levko  to  himself, 
stretching  out  his  head  and  endeavouring  to  miss 
no  word.  But  the  stranger  continued  to  speak 
so  low  that  he  was  inaudible. 

"What,  aren't  you  ashamed?"  said  Hanna 
after  he  had  finished.  "You  are  lying  and 
deceiving  me ;  I  will  never  believe  that  you  love 


me. 


"  I  know,"   continued  the  tall  man,    "that 
Levko  has  talked  nonsense  to  you  and  turned 


156  A   MAY   NIGHT 

your  head."  (Here  it  seemed  to  the  Cossack 
as  though  the  stranger's  voice  were  not  quite 
unknown  to  him,  and  that  he  must  have  heard  it 
somewhere  or  other.)  "  But  Levko  shall  learn  to 
know  me, ' '  continued  the  stranger.  ' '  He  thinks 
I  don't  notice  his  rascally  tricks;  but  he  will  yet 
feel  the  weight  of  my  fists,  the  scoundrel!  M 

At  these  words  Levko  could  no  longer  restrain 
his  wrath.  He  came  three  steps  nearer,  and 
took  a  run  in  order  to  plant  a  blow  which  would 
have  stretched  the  stranger  on  the  ground  in 
spite  of  his  strength.  At  that  moment,  however, 
a  ray  of  light  fell  on  the  latter' s  face,  and  Levko 
stood  transfixed,  for  he  saw  it  was  his  father. 
But  he  only  expressed  his  surprise  by  an  involun- 
tary shake  of  the  head  and  a  low  whistle. 

On  the  other  side  there  was  the  sound  of 
approaching  footsteps.  Hanna  ran  hastily  into 
the  house  and  closed  the  door  behind  her. 

"  Good-bye,  Hanna !  "  cried  one  of  the  youths, 
who  had  stolen  up  and  embraced  the  headman, 
but  started  back  alarmed  when  he  felt  a  rough 
moustache. 

"  Good-bye,  my  darling!  "  cried  another,  but 
speedily  executed  a  somersault  in  consequence 
of  a  violent  blow  from  the  headman. 

"  Good-bye,  good-bye,  Hanna!"  exclaimed 
several  youths,  falling  on  his  neck. 

1  [  Go  to  the  deuce,  you  infernal  scoundrels ! ' ' 
shouted  the  headman,   defending  himself  with 


A   MAY   NIGHT  157 

both  hands  and  feet.  "  WKat  kind  of  Hanna  do 
you  take  me  for?  Hang  yourselves  like  your 
fathers  did,  you  children  of  the  devil !  Falling 
on  one  like  flies  on  honey !  I  will  show  you  who 
Hanna  is !  " 

"The  headman!  The  headman!  It  is  the 
headman!  M  cried  the  youths,  running  away  in 
all  directions. 

"Aha,  father!"  said  Levko  to  himself, 
recovering  from  his  astonishment  and  looking 
after  the  headman  as  he  departed,  cursing  and 
scolding.  "Those  are  the  tricks  you  like  to 
play !  Splendid !  And  I  wonder  and  puzzle  my 
head  why  he  pretends  to  be  deaf  when  I  only 
touch  on  the  matter!  Wait,  you  old  sinner,  I 
will  teach  you  to  cajole  other  people's  sweet- 
hearts. Hi !  you  fellows,  come  here !  "he  cried, 
beckoning  to  the  youths,  who  gathered  round 
him.  "  Come  nearer !  I  told  you  to  go  to  bed, 
but  I  am  differently  minded  now,  and  am  ready 
to  go  round  with  you  all  night." 

"That  is  reasonable,"  exclaimed  a  broad- 
shouldered,  stout  fellow,  who  was  regarded  as 
the  chief  toper  and  good-for-nothing  in  the 
village.  "I  always  feel  uncomfortable  if  I  do 
not  have  a  good  fling,  and  play  some  practical 
jokes.  I  always  feel  as  though  there  were  some- 
thing wanting,  as  though  I  had  lost  my  cap  or  my 
pipe — in  a  word,  I  don't  feel  like  a  proper 
Cpssackthen! " 


158  A   MAY    NIGHT 

"  Do  you  really  want  to  bait  the  headman?  " 
asked  Levko. 

"The  headman?" 

"  Yes,  the  headman.  I  don't  know  for  whom 
he  takes  himself.  He  carries  on  as  though  he 
were  a  duke.  It  is  not  only  that  he  treats  us  as 
if  we  were  his  serfs,  but  he  comes  after  our 
girls." 

"  Quite  right !  That  is  true !  "  exclaimed  all 
the  youths  together. 

• '  But  are  we  made  of  any  worse  stuff  than  he  ? 
We  are,  thank  God  !  free  Cossacks.  Let  us  show 
him  so." 

"Yes,  we  will  show  him!"  they  shouted. 
"  But  when  we  go  for  the  headman,  we  must  not 
forget  his  clerk." 

"The  clerk  shall  have  his  share,  too.  Just 
now  a  song  that  suits  the  headman  occurs  to  me. 
Go  on  !  I  will  teach  it  you  !  "  continued  Levko, 
striking  the  strings  of  his  guitar.  "  But  listen! 
Disguise  yourselves  as  well  as  you  can." 

"  Hurrah  for  the  Cossacks!  "  cried  the  stout 
reveller,  dancing  and  clapping  his  hands. 
* '  Long  live  freedom  !  When  one  lets  the  reins 
go,  one  thinks  of  the  good  old  times.  It 
feels  as  jolly  as  though  one  were  in  paradise. 
Hurrah,  you  fellows  !    Go  ahead  I  " 

The  youths  rushed  noisily  through  the  village 
street,  and  the  pious  old  women,  aroused  from 
their  sleep,  looked  through  the  windows,  crossed 


A   MAY    NIGHT  159 

themselves  drowsily,  and  thought,  '  *  There  they 
go,  the  wild  young  fellows ! " 


IV 

WILD    PRANKS 

Only  in  one  house  at  the  end  of  the  street  there 
still  burned  a  light;  it  was  the  headman's.  He 
had  long  finished  his  supper,  and  would  cer- 
tainly have  gone  to  sleep  but  that  he  had  a  guest 
with  him,  the  brandy-distiller.  The  latter  had 
been  sent  to  superintend  the  building  of  a  dis- 
tillery for  the  lords  of  the  manor,  who  possessed 
small  allotments  between  the  lands  of  the  free 
Cossacks.  At  the  upper  end  of  the  table,  in  the 
place  of  honour,  sat  the  guest — a  short,  stout 
man  with  small,  merry  eyes.  He  smoked  his 
short  pipe  with  obvious  satisfaction,  spitting 
every  moment  and  constantly  pushing  the 
tobacco  down  in  the  bowl.  The  clouds  of  smoke 
collected  over  his  head,  and  veiled  him  in  a  bluish 
mist.  It  seemed  as  though  the  broad  chimney 
of  a  distillery,  which  was  bored  at  always  being 
perched  up  on  the  roof,  had  hit  upon  the  idea  of 
taking  a  little  recreation,  and  had  now  settled 
itself  comfortably  at  the  headman's  table.  Close 
under  his  nose  bristled  his  short,  thick  mous- 
tache, which  in  the  dim,  smoky  atmosphere 
resembled  a  mouse  which  the  distiller  had  caught 


160  A    MAY    NIGHT 

and  held  in  his  mouth,  usurping  the  functions  of 
a  dining-room  cat.  The  headman  sat  there,  as 
master  of  the  house,  wearing  only  his  shirt  and 
linen  breeches.  His  eagle  eye  began  to  grow 
dim  like  the  setting  sun,  and  to  half  close.  At 
the  lower  end  of  the  table  sat,  smoking  his  pipe, 
one  of  the  village  council,  of  which  the  headman 
was  superintendent.  Out  of  respect  for  the 
latter  he  had  not  removed  his  caftan. 

"How  soon  do  you  think, "  asked  the  head- 
man, turning  to  the  distiller  and  putting  his  hand 
before  his  gaping  mouth,  "will  you  have  the 
distillery  put  up?" 

"  With  God's  help  we  shall  be  distilling  brandy 
this  autumn.  On  Conception  Day  I  bet  the 
headman  will  be  tracing  the  figure  eight  with  his 
feet  on  his  way  home."  So  saying,  the  dis- 
tiller laughed  so  heartily  that  his  small  eyes 
disappeared  altogether,  his  body  was  convulsed, 
and  his  twitching  lips  actually  let  go  of  the 
reeking  pipe  for  a  moment. 

M  God  grant  it !  "  said  the  headman,  on  whose 
face  the  shadow  of  a  smile  was  visible.  "  Now, 
thank  heaven,  the  number  of  distilleries  is  in- 
creasing a  little;  but  in  the  old  days,  when  I 
accompanied  the  Czarina  on  the  Perejlaslov 
Eoad,  and  the  late  Besborodko M 

"  Yes,  my  friend,  those  were  bad  times. 
Then  from  Krementchuk  to  Eomen  there  were 
hardly  two  distilleries,     And  now — but  have  you 


A    MAY    NIGHT  161 

heard  what  the  infernal  Germans  have  invented? 
They  say  they  will  no  longer  use  wood  for  fuel  in 
the  distilleries,  but  devilish  steam."  At  these 
words  the  distiller  stared  at  the  table  reflectively, 
and  at  his  arms  resting  on  it.  "  But  how  they 
can  use  steam — by  heavens!  I  don't  know." 

' '  What  fools  these  Germans  are ! ' '  said  the 
headman.  "  I  should  like  to  give  those  sons 
of  dogs  a  good  thrashing.  Whoever  heard  of 
cooking  with  steam?  At  this  rate  one  will  not 
be  able  to  get  a  spoonful  of  porridge  or  a  bit  of 
bacon  into  one's  mouth." 

4 'And  you,  friend,"  broke  in  the  headman's 
sister-in-law,  who  was  sitting  by  the  stove;  "  will 
you  be  with  us  the  whole  time  without  your 
wife?" 

"Do  I  want  her  then?  If  she  were  only 
passably  good-looking ' ' 

"She  is  not  pretty,  then?"  asked  the  head- 
man with  a  questioning  glance. 

' '  How  should  she  be ;  as  old  as  Satan,  and  with 
a  face  as  full  of  wrinkles  as  an  empty  purse," 
said  the  distiller,  shaking  again  with  laughter. 

Then  a  noise  was  heard  at  the  door,  which 
opened  and  a  Cossack  stepped  over  the  threshold 
without  removing  his  cap,  and  remained  standing 
in  an  absent-minded  way  in  the  middle  of  the 
room,  with  open  mouth  and  gazing  at  the  ceiling. 
It  was  Kalenik,  whose  acquaintance  we  have 
already  made. 

L 


162  A   MAY    NIGHT 

"Now  I  am  at  home,"  he  said,  taking  his 
seat  by  the  door,  without  taking  any  notice  of 
those  present.  "Ah!  to  what  a  length  Satan 
made  the  road  stretch.  I  went  on  and  on,  and 
there  was  no  end.  My  legs  are  quite  broken. 
Woman,  bring  me  my  fur  blanket  to  lie  down  on. 
There  it  is  in  the  corner;  but  mind  you  don't 
upset  the  little  pot  of  snuff.  But  no ;  better  not 
touch  it !  Leave  it  alone  !  You  are  really  quite 
drunk — I  had  better  get  it  myself/' 

Kalenik  tried  to  rise,  but  an  invincible  power 
fettered  him  to  his  seat. 

"  That's  a  nice  business  !  "  said  the  headman. 
"  He  comes  into  a  strange  house,  and  behaves 
as  though  he  were  at  home !  Push  him  out,  in 
heaven's  name! " 

1 '  Let  him  rest  a  bit,  friend ! ' '  said  the 
distiller,  seizing  the  headman's  arm.  "  The 
man  is  very  useful ;  if  we  had  only  plenty  of  this 
kind,  our  distillery  would  get  on  grandly.  .  :.  ." 
For  the  rest,  it  was  not  good-nature  which 
inspired  these  words.  The  distiller  was  full  of 
superstition,  and  to  turn  out  a  man  who  had 
already  sat  down,  seemed  to  him  to  be  tanta- 
mount to  invoking  the  devil. 

"  That  comes  of  being  old,"  grumbled 
Kalenik,  stretching  himself  out  along  the  seat. 
M  People  might  say  I  was  drunk,  but  no,  I  am 
not !  Why  should  I  lie?  I  am  ready  to  tell  the 
headman  to  his    face!     Who   is  the  headman 


A   MAY   NIGHT  163 

anyway?  May  he  break  his  neck,  the  son  of  a 
dog !  I  spit  at  him !  May  he  be  run  over  by  a 
cart,  the  one-eyed  devil!  " 

' '  Ah !  the  drunken  sot  has  crawled  into  the 
house,  and  now  he  lays  his  paws  on  the  table/ ' 
said  the  headman,  rising  angrily;  but  at  that 
moment  a  heavy  stone,  breaking  a  window-pane 
to  pieces,  fell  at  his  feet.  The  headman  re- 
mained standing.  "  If  I  knew,"  he  said,  "  what 
jail-bird  has  thrown  it,  I  would  give  him  some- 
thing. What  devil's  trick  is  this?  "  he  con- 
tinued, looking  at  the  stone,  which  he  held  in  his 
hand,  with  burning  eyes.  "I  wish  I  could 
choke  him  with  it !  " 

"  Stop  !  Stop !  God  preserve  you,  friend !  " 
broke  in  the  distiller,  looking  pale.  M  God  keep 
you  in  this  world  and  the  next,  but  don't  curse 
anyone  so." 

"  Ah  !  now  we  have  his  defender !  May  he  be 
ruined !  ■ ' 

"  Listen,  friend !  You  don't  know  what  hap- 
pened to  my  late  mother-in-law." 

' 'Your  mother-in-law?" 

"Yes,  my  mother-in-law.  One  evening, 
perhaps  rather  earlier  than  this,  they  were  sitting 
at  supper,  my  late  mother-in-law,  my  father-in- 
law,  their  two  servants,  and  five  children.  My 
mother-in-law  emptied  some  dumplings  from  the 
cooking-pot  into  a  dish  in  order  to  cool  them. 
But  the  others,  being  hungry  after  the  day's 


164  A   MAY    NIGHT 

work,  did  not  wait  till  they  were  quite  cooled,  but 
stuck  their  long  wooden  forks  into  them  and  ate 
them  at  once.  All  at  once  a  stranger  entered — 
heaven  knows  whence  ! — and  asked  to  be  allowed 
to  share  their  meal.  They  could  not  refuse  to 
feed  a  hungry  man,  and  gave  him  also  a  wooden 
fork.  But  the  guest  made  as  short  work  with 
the  dumplings  as  a  cow  with  hay.  Before  the 
family  had  each  of  them  finished  his  or  her 
dumpling  and  reached  out  their  forks  again  for 
another,  the  dish  had  been  swept  as  clean  as 
the  floor  of  a  nobleman's  drawing-room.  My 
mother-in-law  emptied  out  some  more  dump- 
lings ;  she  thought  to  herself,  '  Now  the  guest  is 
satisfied,  and  will  not  be  so  greedy.'  But  on  the 
contrary,  he  began  to  swallow  them  faster  than 
ever,  and  emptied  the  second  dish  also.  '  May 
one  of  them  choke  you !  '  said  my  mother-in-law 
under  her  breath.  Suddenly  the  guest  seemed 
to  try  to  clear  his  throat,  and  fell  back.  They 
rushed  to  his  help,  but  his  breath  had  stopped 
and  he  was  dead." 

' '  Served  him  right,  the  cursed  glutton ! ' ' 
■ '  But  it  turned  out  quite  otherwise ;  since  that 
time  my  mother-in-law  has  no  rest.  No  sooner 
is  it  dark  than  the  dead  man  approaches  the 
house.  He  then  sits  astride  the  chimney,  the 
scoundrel,  holding  a  dumpling  between  his  teeth. 
During  the  day  it  is  quite  quiet — one  hears  and 
sees  nothing;  but  as  soon  as  it  begins  to  grow 


A    MAY    NIGHT  165 

dark,  and  one  casts  a  look  at  the  roof,  there  he 
is  comfortably  perched  on  the  chimney!  " 

1 '  A  wonderful  story,  friend  !  I  heard  some- 
thing similar  from  my  late M 

Then  the  headman  suddenly  stopped.  Out- 
side there  were  noises,  and  the  stamping  of 
dancers'  feet.  The  strings  of  a  guitar  were 
being  struck  gently,  to  the  accompaniment  of 
a  voice.  Then  the  guitar  was  played  more 
loudly,  many  voices  joined  in,  and  the  whole 
chorus  struck  up  a  song  in  ridicule  of  the 
headman. 

When  it  was  over,  the  distiller  said,  with  his 
head  bent  a  little  on  one  side,  to  the  headman 
who  was  almost  petrified  by  the  audacity  of  the 
serenaders,  "A  fine  song,  my  friend!  " 

' '  Very  fine  !  Only  it  is  a  pity  that  they  insult 
the  headman." 

He  folded  his  arms  with  a  certain  measure  of 
composure  on  the  table,  and  prepared  to  listen 
further,  for  the  singing  and  noise  outside  con- 
tinued. A  sharp  observer,  however,  would  have 
seen  that  it  was  not  mere  torpidity  which  made 
the  headman  sit  so  quietly.  In  the  same  way  a 
crafty  cat  often  allows  an  inexperienced  mouse 
to  play  about  her  tail,  while  she  is  quickly  de- 
vising a  plan  to  cut  it  off  from  the  mouse-hole. 
The  headman's  one  eye  was  still  fastened  on 
the  window,  and  his  hand,  after  he  had  given 
the  village  councillor  a  sign,  was  reaching  for 


166  A   MAY   NIGHT 

the  door-handle,  when  suddenly  a  loud  noise 
and  shouts  were  heard  from  the  street.  The 
distiller,  who  beside  many  other  characteristics 
possessed  a  keen  curiosity,  laid  down  his  pipe 
quickly  and  ran  into  the  street;  but  the  ne'er-do- 
wells  had  all  dispersed. 

"No,  you  don't  escape  me!"  cried  the 
headman,  dragging  someone  muffled  up  in  a 
sheepskin  coat  with  the  hair  turned  outwards,  by 
the  arm. 

The  distiller  rapidly  Seized  a  favourable 
moment  to  look  at  the  face  of  this  disturber  of 
the  peace ;  but  he  started  back  when  he  Saw  a 
long  beard  and  a  grim,  painted  face. 

"No,  you  don't  escape  me!  "  exclaimed  the 
headman  again  as  he  dragged  his  prisoner  into 
the  vestibule. 

The  latter  offered  Ho  resistance,  and  followed 
him  as  quietly  as  though  it  had  been  his  own 
house. 

"  Karpo,  open  the  store-room!"  the  head- 
man called  to  the  village  councillor.  ' '  We  will 
throw  him  in  there !  Then  we  will  awake  the 
clerk,  call  the  village  council  together,  catch  this 
impudent  rabble,  and  pass  our  sentence  on  them 
at  once." 

The  village  councillor  unlocked  the  store- 
room; then  in  the  darkness  of  the  vestibule,  the 
prisoner  made  a  desperate  effort  to  break  loose 
from  the  headman's  arms. 


A   MAY    NIGHT  167 

"Ah!  you  would,  would  you?"  exclaimed 
the  headman,  holding  him  more  firmly  by  the 
collar. 

"Let  me  go!  It  is  I!  "  a  half -stifled  voice 
was  heard  saying. 

"  It  is  no  good,  brother !  You  may  squeal  if 
you  choose,  like  the  devil,  instead  of  imitating 
a  woman,  but  you  won't  get  round  me.5'  So 
saying,  he  thrust  the  prisoner  with  such  violence 
into  the  dark  room  that  he  fell  on  the  ground  and 
groaned  aloud. 

The  victorious  headman,  accompanied  by  the 
village  councillor,  now  betook  himself  to  the 
clerk's;  they  were  followed  by  the  distiller,  who 
was  veiled  in  clouds  of  tobacco-smoke,  and 
resembled  a  steamer. 

They  were  all  three  walking  reflectively  with 
bent  heads,  when  suddenly,  turning  into  a  dark 
side-alley,  they  uttered  a  cry  and  started  back  in 
consequence  of  coming  into  collision  with  three 
other  men,  who  on  their  side  shouted  with  equal 
loudness.  The  headman  saw  with  his  one  eye, 
to  his  no  small  astonishment,  the  clerk  with  two 
village  councillors. 

"  I  was  just  coming  to  you,  Mr  Notary.'5 
"  And  I  was  on  my  way  to  your  honour.' ' 
11  These  are  strange  goings-on,  Mr  Notary." 
"  Indeed  they  are,  your  honour." 
"Have   you  seen    them   then?"    asked  the 
headman,  surprised. 


168  A    MAY    NIGHT 

"  The  young  fellows  are  roaming  about  the 
streets  using  vile  language.  They  are  abusing 
your  honour  in  a  way — in  a  word,  it  is  a  scandal. 
A  drunken  Eussian  would  be  ashamed  to  use 
such  words." 

The  lean  notary,  in  his  gaily  striped  breeches 
and  yeast-coloured  waistcoat,  kept  on  stretching 
forward  and  drawing  back  his  neck  while  he 
talked. 

"  Hardly  had  I  gone  to  sleep,' '  he  continued, 
1 '  than  the  cursed  loafers  woke  me  up  with  their 
shameful  songs  and  their  noise.  I  meant  to  give 
them  a  sound  rating,  but  while  I  was  putting  on 
my  breeches  and  vest,  they  all  ran  away.  But 
the  ringleader  has  not  escaped;  for  the  present 
he  is  shut  up  in  the  hut  which  we  use  as  a  prison. 
I  was  very  curious  to  know  who  the  scapegrace 
is,  but  his  face  is  as  sooty  as  the  devil's  when 
he  forges  nails  for  sinners." 

"  What  clothes  does  he  wear,  Mr  Notary?" 

' '  The  son  of  a  dog  wears  a  black  sheepskin 
coat  turned  inside  out,  your  honour." 

"Aren't  you  telling  me  a  lie,  Mr  Notary? 
The  same  good-for-nothing  is  now  shut  up  in  my 
store-room  under  lock  and  key." 

"No,  your  honour !  You  have  drawn  the 
long  bow  a  little  yourself,  and  should  not  be 
vexed  at  what  I  say." 

"  Bring  a  light!  We  will  take  a  look  at  him 
at  once !  ' ' 


A   MAY    NIGHT  169 

They  returned  to  the  headman's,  house;  the 
store-room  door  was  opened,  and  the  headman 
groaned  for  sheer  amazement  as  he  saw  his  sister- 
in-law  standing  before  him. 

' '  Tell  me  then,"  she  said,  stepping  forward, 
' '  have  you  quite  lost  your  senses  ?  Had  you  a 
single  particle  of  brains  in  your  one-eyed  fish- 
head  when  you  locked  me  up  in  the  dark  room. 
It  is  a  mercy  I  did  not  break  my  head  against  the 
iron  door  hinge.  Didn't  I  shout  out  that  it  was 
I?  Then  he  seized  me,  the  cursed  bear,  with 
his  iron  claws,  and  pushed  me  in.  May  Satan 
hereafter  so  push  you  into  hell ! ' '  The  last 
words  she  spoke  from  the  street,  having  wisely 
gone  out  of  his  reach. 

"Yes,  now  I  see  that  it  is  you!"  said 
the  headman,  who  had  slowly  recovered  his 
composure. 

"Is  he  not  a  scamp  and  a  scoundrel,  Mr 
Clerk?  "  he  continued. 

"Yes,  certainly,  your  honour." 

"Isn't  it  high  time  to  give  all  these  loose 
fellows  a  lesson,  that  they  may  at  last  betake 
themselves  to  their  work  ?  ' ' 

"  Yes,  it  is  high  time,  your  honour." 

"  The  fools  have  combined  in  a  gang.  What 
the  deuce  is  that?  It  sounded  like  my  sister-in- 
law's  voice.  The  blockheads  think  that  I  am 
like  her,  an  ordinary  Cossack." 

Here  he  coughed  and  cleared  his  throat,  and 


170  A   MAY    NIGHT 

a  gleam  in  his  eyes  showed  that  he  was  about  to 
say  something  very  important.  "In  the  year 
one  thousand — I  cannot  keep  these  cursed  dates 
in  my  memory,  if  I  was  to  be  killed  for  it. 
Well,  never  mind  when  it  was,  the  Commissary 
Ledatcho  was  commanded  to  choose  out  a 
Cossack  who  was  cleverer  than  the  rest.  Yes," 
he  added,  raising  his  forefinger,  "  cleverer  than 
the  rest,  to  accompany  the  Czar.  Then  I 
was " 

u  Yes,  yes,"  the  notary  interrupted  him,  "we 
all  know,  headman,  that  you  well  deserved  the 
imperial  favour.  But  confess  now  that  I  was 
right :  you  made  a  mistake  when  you  declared 
that  you  had  caught  the  vagabond  in  the  reversed 
sheepskin." 

* '  This  disguised  devil  I  will  have  imprisoned 
to  Serve  as  a  warning  to  the  rest.  They  will  have 
to  learn  what  authority  means.  Who  has  ap- 
pointed the  headman,  if  not  the  Czar  ?  Then  we 
will  tackle  the  other  fellows.  I  don't  forget  how 
the  scamps  drove  a  whole  herd  of  swine  into  my 
garden,  which  ate  up  all  the  cabbages  and 
cucumbers;  I  don't  forget  how  those  sons  of 
devils  refused  to  thrash  my  rye  for  me.  I  don't 
forget — to  the  deuce  with  them !  We  must  first 
find  out  who  this  scoundrel  in  the  sheepskin 
really  is." 

"He  is  a  sly  dog  anyway,"  said  the  distiller, 
whose  cheeks  during  the  whole  conversation  had 


A   MAY   NIGHT  171 

been  as  full  of  smoke  as  a  siege-cannon,  and 
whose  lips,  when  he  took  his  pipe  out  of  his 
mouth,  seemed  to  emit  sparks. 

Meanwhile  they  had  approached  a  small  ruined 
hut.  Their  curiosity  had  mounted  to  the  highest 
pitch,  and  they  pressed  round  the  door.  The 
notary  produced  a  key  and  tried  to  turn  the  lock, 
but  it  did  not  fit;  it  was  the  key  of  his  trunk. 
The  impatience  of  the  onlookers  increased.  He 
plunged  his  hand  into  the  wide  pocket  of  his  gaily 
striped  breeches,  bent  his  back,  scraped  with  his 
feet,  uttered  imprecations,  and  at  last  cried 
triumphantly,  "  I  have  it!  M 

At  these  words  the  hearts  of  our  heroes  beat 
so  loud,  that  the  turning  of  the  key  in  the  lock 
was  almost  inaudible.  At  last  the  door  opened, 
and  the  headman  turned  as  white  as  a  sheet. 
The  distiller  felt  a  shiver  run  down  his  spine,  and 
his  hair  stood  on  end.  Terror  and  apprehension 
were  stamped  on  the  notary's  face;  the  village 
councillors  almost  sank  into  the  ground  and  could 
not  shut  their  wide-open  mouths.  Before  them 
stood  the  headman's  sister-in-law ! 

She  was  not  less  startled  than  they,  but 
recovered  herself  somewhat,  and  made  a  move- 
ment as  if  to  approach  them. 

"  Stop!"  cried  the  headman  in  an  excited 
voice,  and  slammed  the  door  again.  "  Sirs, 
Satan  is  behind  this!  "  he  continued.  "  Bring 
fire    quickly!     Never    mind    the    hut!     Set    it 


172  A    MAY    NIGHT 

alight  and  burn  it  up  so  that  not  even  the  witch's 
bones  remain.' ' 

"Wait  a  minute,  brother!"  exclaimed  the 
distiller.  ■"  Your  hair  is  grey,  but  you  are  not 
very  intelligent;  no  ordinary  fire  will  burn  a 
witch.  Only  the  fire  of  a  pipe  can  do  it.  I  will 
manage  it  all  right."  So  saying,  he  shook  some 
glowing  ashes  from  his  pipe  on  to  a  bundle  of 
straw,  and  began  to  fan  the  flame. 

Despair  gave  the  unfortunate  woman  courage ; 
she  began  to  implore  them  in  a  loud  voice. 

1 '  Stop  a  moment,  brother !  Perhaps  we  are 
incurring  guilt  needlessly.  Perhaps  she  is  really 
no  witch!"  said  the  notary.  "If  the  person 
sitting  in  there  declares  herself  ready  to  make 
the  sign  of  the  cross,  then  she  is  not  a  child  of 
the  devil." 

The  proposal  was  accepted.  "Look  out, 
Satan!"  continued  the  notary,  speaking  at  a 
chink  in  the  door.  "  If  you  promise  not  to 
move,  we  will  open  the  door." 

The  door  was  opened. 

"Cross  yourself!"  exclaimed  the  headman, 
looking  round  him  for  a  safe  place  of  retreat  in 
case  of  necessity. 

His  sister-in-law  crossed  herself. 

"The  deuce!  It  is  really  you,  sister-in- 
law!" 

"  What  evil  spirit  dragged  you  into  this  hole, 
friend?  "  asked  the  notary. 


A   MAY   NIGHT  173 

The  headman's  sister  related  amid  sobs  how 
the  rioters  had  seized  her  on  the  street,  and  in 
spite  of  her  resistance,  pushed  her  through  a 
large  window  into  the  hut,  on  which  they  had 
closed  the  shutters.  The  notary  looked  and 
found  that  the  bolt  of  the  shutter  had  been 
wrenched  oft',  and  that  it  was  held  in  its  place  by 
a  wooden  bar  placed  across  it  outside. 

1 '  You  are  a  nice  fellow,  you  one-eyed 
Satan!  "  she  now  exclaimed,  advancing  towards 
the  headman,  who  stepped  backwards  and  con- 
tinued to  contemplate  her  from  head  to  foot. 
1 '  I  know  your  thoughts ;  you  were  glad  of  an 
opportunity  to  get  me  shut  up  in  order  to  run 
after  that  petticoat,  so  that  no  one  could  see  the 
grey-haired  sinner  making  a  fool  of  himself. 
You  think  I  don't  know  how  you  talked  this 
evening  with  Hanna.  Oh,  I  know  everything. 
You  must  get  up  earlier  if  you  want  to  make  a 
fool  of  me,  you  great  stupid!  I  have  endured 
for  a  long  time,  but  at  last  don't  take  it  ill 
if " 

She  made  a  threatening  gesture  with  her  fist, 
and  ran  away  swiftly,  leaving  the  headman  quite 
taken  aback. 

* '  The  devil  really  has  something  to  do  with 
it!  "  he  thought,  rubbing  his  bald  head. 

1 '  We  have  him !  ' '  now  exclaimed  the  two 
village  councillors  as  they  approached. 

"  Whom  have  you?  "  asked  the  headman. 


174  A   MAY   NIGHT 

'-  The  devil  in  the  sheepskin.5 ' 

"  Bring  him  here!"  cried  the  headman, 
seizing  the  prisoner  by  the  arm.  "Are  you 
mad?     This  is  the  drunken  Kalenik !  " 

"It  is  witchcraft!  He  was  in  our  hands, 
your  honour!  "  replied  the  village  councillors. 
* '  The  rascals  were  rushing  about  in  the  narrow 
side-streets,  dancing  and  behaving  like  idiots — 
the  devil  take  them !  How  it  was  we  got  hold  of 
this  fellow  instead  of  him,  heaven  only  knows !  " 

1 '  In  virtue  of  my  authority,  and  that  of  the 
village  assembly,"  said  the  headman,  "  I  issue 
the  order  to  seize  these  robbers  and  other  young 
vagabonds  which  may  be  met  with  in  the  streets, 
and  to  bring  them  before  me  to  be  dealt  with." 

"  Excuse  us,  your  honour,"  answered  the 
village  councillors,  bowing  low.  "  If  you  could 
only  see  the  hideous  faces  they  had ;  may  heaven 
punish  us  if  ever  anyone  has  seen  such  mis- 
creations  since  he  was  born  and  baptised.  These 
devils  might  frighten  one  into  an  illness." 

"I'll  teach  you  to  be  afraid!  You  won't 
obey  then?  You  are  certainly  in  the  conspiracy 
with  them!  You  mutineers!  What  is  the 
meaning  of  that?  What?  You  abet  robbery 
and  murder!  You! — I  will  inform  the  Com- 
missary. Go  at  once,  do  you  hear ;  fly  like  birds. 
I  shall — you  will " 

They  all  dispersed  in  different  directions. 


A   MAY   NIGHT  175 

V 

THE    DROWNED    GIRL 

Without  troubling  himself  in  the  least  about 
those  who  had  been  sent  to  pursue  him,  the 
originator  of  all  this  confusion  slowly  walked 
towards  the  old  house  and  the  pool.  We  hardly 
need  to  say  it  was  Levko.  His  black  fur  coat 
was  buttoned  up ;  he  carried  his  cap  in  his  hand, 
and  the  perspiration  was  pouring  down  his  face. 
The  moon  poured  her  light  on  the  gloomy  majesty 
of  the  dark  maple-wood. 

The  coolness  of  the  air  round  the  motionless 
pool  enticed  the  weary  wanderer  to  rest  by  it  s 
while.  Universal  silence  prevailed,  only  that  in 
the  forest  thickets  the  nightingales'  songs  were 
heard.  An  overpowering  drowsiness  closed  his 
eyes;  his  tired  limbs  relaxed,  and  his  head 
nodded. 

"  Ah!  am  I  going  to  sleep?"  he  said,  rising 
and  rubbing  his  eyes. 

He  looked  round ;  the  night  seemed  to  him  still 
more  beautiful.  The  moonlight  seemed  to  have 
an  intoxicating  quality  about  it,  a  glamour  which 
he  had  never  perceived  before.  The  landscape 
was  veiled  in  a  silver  mist.  The  air  was  redolent 
with   the  perfume   of   the   apple-blossoms   and 


176  A   MAY   NIGHT 

the  night-flowers.  Entranced,  he  gazed  on  the 
motionless  pool.  The  old,  half-ruined  house 
was  clearly  reflected  without  a  quiver  in  the 
water.  But  instead  of  dark  shutters,  he  saw 
light  streaming  from  brilliantly  lit  windows. 
Presently  one  of  them  opened.  Holding  his 
breath,  and  without  moving  a  muscle,  he  fas- 
tened his  eyes  on  the  pool  and  seemed  to  pene- 
trate its  depths.  What  did  he  see?  First  he  saw 
at  the  window  a  graceful,  curly  head  with  shining 
eyes,  propped  on  a  white  arm;  the  head  moved 
and  smiled.  His  heart  suddenly  began  to  beat. 
The  water  began  to  break  into  ripples,  and  the 
window  closed. 

Quietly  he  withdrew  from  the  pool,  and  looked 
towards  the  house.  The  dark  shutters  were 
flung  back;  the  window-panes  gleamed  in  the 
moonlight.  "How  little  one  can  believe  what 
people  say!"  he  thought  to  himself.  "The 
house  is  bran-new,  and  looks  as  though  it 
had  only  just  been  painted.  It  is  certainly 
inhabited." 

He  stepped  nearer  cautiously,  but  the  house 
was  quite  silent.  The  clear  song  of  the  nightin- 
gales rose  powerfully  and  distinctly  on  the  air, 
and  as  they  died  away  one  heard  the  chirping 
and  rustling  of  the  grasshoppers,  and  the 
marshbird  clapping  his  slippery  beak  in  the 
water. 

Levko  felt  enraptured  with  the  sweetness  and 


A   MAY   NIGHT  177 

stillness  of  the  night.     He  struck  the  strings  of 
his  guitar  and  sang  : 

"  Oh  lovely  moon 

Thou  steepst  in  light 
The  house  where  my  darling 
iSleeps  all  night.' ' 

A  window  opened  gently,  and  the  same  girl 
whose  image  he  had  seen  in  the  pool  looked  out 
and  listened  attentively  to  the  song.  Her  long- 
lashed  eyelids  were  partly  drooping  over  her 
eyes;  she  was  as  pale  as  the  moonlight,  but 
wonderfully  beautiful.  She  smiled,  and  a  shiver 
ran  through  Levko. 

"  Sing  me  a  song,  young  Cossack !  "  she  said 
gently,  bending  her  head  sideways  and  quite 
closing  her  eyes. 

"  What  song  shall  I  sing  you,  dear  girl?  " 

Tears  rolled  down  her  pale  cheeks. 
"Cossack,"  she  said,  and  there  was  something 
inexpressibly  touching  in  her  tone,  "Cossack, 
find  my  stepmother  for  me.  I  will  do  everything 
for  you;  I  will  reward  you;  I  will  give  you 
abundant  riches.  I  have  armlets  embroidered 
with  silk  and  coral  necklaces;  I  will  give  you  a 
girdle  set  with  pearls.  I  have  gold.  Cossack, 
seek  my  stepmother  for  me.  She  is  a  terrible 
witch;  she  allowed  me  no  peace  in  the  beautiful 
world.  She  tortured  me ;  she  made  me  work  like 
a  common  maid-servant.     Look  at  my  face;  she 

M 


178  A   MAY   NIGHT 

has  banished  the  redness  from  my  cheeks  with 
her  unholy  magic.  Look  at  my  white  neck ;  they 
cannot  be  washed  away,  they  cannot  be  washed 
away — the  blue  marks  of  her  iron  claws.  Look 
at  my  white  feet;  they  did  not  walk  on  carpets, 
but  on  hot  sand,  on  damp  ground,  on  piercing 
thorns.  And  my  eyes — look  at  them;  they  are 
almost  blind  with  weeping.  Seek  my  step- 
mother! " 

Her  voice,  which  had  gradually  become  louder, 
stopped,  and  she  wept. 

The  Cossack  felt  overpowered  by  sympathy  and 
grief.  "lam  ready  to  do  everything  to  please 
you,  dear  lady,"  he  cried  with  deep  emotion; 
"  but  where  and  how  can  I  find  her?  " 

"Look,  look!"  she  said  quickly,  "  she  is 
here !  She  dances  on  the  lake-shore  with  my 
maidens,  and  warms  herself  in  the  moonlight. 
Yet  she  is  cunning  and  sly.  She  has  assumed  the 
shape  of  one  who  is  drowned,  yet  I  know  and 
hear  that  she  is  present.  I  am  so  afraid  of  her. 
Because  of  her  I  cannot  swim  free  and  light  as  a 
fish.  I  sink  and  fall  to  the  bottom  like  a  piece 
of  iron.    Look  for  her,  Cossack  !  ,? 

Levko  cast  a  glance  at  the  lake-shore.  In  a 
silvery  mist  there  moved,  like  shadows,  girls  in 
white  dresses  decked  with  May  flowers;  gold 
necklaces  and  coins  gleamed  on  their  necks ;  but 
they  were  very  pale,  as  though  formed  of  trans- 
parent clouds.    They  danced  nearer  him,  and  he 


A    MAY    NIGHT  179 

could  hear  their  voices,  somewhat  like  the  sound 
of  reeds  stirred  in  the  quiet  evening  by  the 
breeze. 

"Let  us  play  the  raven-game!  Let  ug  play 
the  raven-game ! ' ' 

"  Who  will  be  the  raven  ?" 

Lots  were  cast,  and  a  girl  stepped  out  of  the 
line  of  the  dancers. 

Levko  observed  her  attentively.  Her  face  and 
clothing  resembled  those  of  the  others;  but  she 
was  evidently  unwilling  to  play  the  part  assigned 
her.  The  dancers  revolved  rapidly  round  her, 
without  her  being  able  to  catch  one  of 
them. 

"No,  I  won't  be  the  raven  any  more,'-'  she 
said,  quite  exhausted.  "  I  do  not  like  to  rob  the 
poor  mother-hen  of  her  chickens." 

"You  are  not  a  witch,"  thought  Levko. 

The  girls  again  gathered  together  in  order  to 
cast  lots  who  should  be  the  raven. 

"  I  will  be  the  raven!  "  called  one  from  the 
midst. 

Levko  watched  her  closely.  Boldly  and 
rapidly  she  ran  after  the  dancers,  and  made  every 
effort  to  catch  her  prey.  Levko  began  to  notice 
that  her  body  was  not  transparent  like  the 
others;  there  was  something  black  in  the  midst 
of  it.  Suddenly  there  was  a  cry;  the  "  raven  "• 
had  rushed  on  a  girl,  embraced  her,  and  it 
seemed  to  Levko  as  though  she  had  stretched  out 


180  A    MAY    NIGHT 

claws,  and  as  though  her  face  shone  with 
malicious  joy. 

"  Witch!"  he  cried  out,  pointing  at  her 
suddenly  with  his  finger,  and  turning  towards  the 
house. 

The  girl  at  the  window  laughed^  and  the 
other  girls  dragged  the  "raven"  screaming 
along  with  them. 

"How  shall  I  reward  you,  Cossack?"  said 
the  maiden.  >'I  know  you  do  not  need  gold; 
you  love  Hanna,  but  her  harsh  father  will  not 
allow  you  to  marry.  But  give  him  this  note,  and 
he  will  cease  to  hinder  it." 

She  stretched  out  her  white  hand,  and  her  face 
shone  wonderfully.  With  strange  shudders  and 
a  beating  heart,  he  grasped  the  paper  and — 
awoke. 


VI 

THE  AWAKENING 

"Have  I  then  been  really  asleep?"  Levko 
asked  himself  as  he  stood  up.  "Everything 
seemed  so  real,  as  though  I  were  awake.  Won- 
derful! Wonderful!"  he  repeated,  looking 
round  him.  The  position  of  the  moon  vertical 
overhead  showed  that  it  was  midnight ;  a  waft  of 
coolness  came  from  the  pool.     The  ruined  house 


A   MAY   NIGHT  181 

with  the  closed  shutters  stood  there  with  a 
melancholy  aspect;  the  moss  and  weeds  which 
grew  thickly  upon  it  showed  that  it  had  not  been 
entered  by  any  human  foot  for  a  long  time. 
Then  he  suddenly  opened  his  hand,  which  had 
been  convulsively  clenched  during  his  sleep,  and 
cried  aloud  with  astonishment  when  he  saw  the 
note  in  it.  "Ah!  if  I  could  only  read/'  he 
thought,  turning  it  this  way  and  that.  At  that 
moment  he  heard  a  noise  behind  him. 

"Fear  nothing!  Lay  hold  of  him!  What 
are  you  afraid  of?  There  are  ten  of  us.  I 
wager  that  he  is  a  man,  and  not  the  devil. " 

It  was  the  headman  encouraging  his  com- 
panions. 

Levko  felt  himself  seized  by  several  arms, 
many  of  which  were  trembling  with  fear. 

'  ■  Throw  off  your  mask,  friend !  Cease  trying 
to  fool  us,"  said  the  headman,  taking  him  by 
the  collar.  But  he  started  back  when  he  saw 
him  closely.  "Levko!  My  son!"  he  ex- 
claimed, letting  his  arms  sink.  "It  is  you, 
miserable  boy !  I  thought  some  rascal,  or  dis- 
guised devil,  was  playing  these  tricks;  but  now 
it  seems  you  have  cooked  this  mess  for  your  own 
father — placed  yourself  at  the  head  of  a  band 
of  robbers,  and  composed  songs  to  ridicule 
him.  Eh,  Levko!  What  is  the  meaning  of 
that?  It  seems  your  back  is  itching.  Tie  him 
fast!" 


182  A   MAY   NIGHT 

"  Stop,  father!  I  have  been  ordered  to  give 
you  this  note,"  said  Levko. 

"  Let  me  see  it  then!  But  bind  him  all  the 
same." 

"  Wait,  headman,"  said  the  notary,  unfolding 
the  note;  "it  is  the  Commissary's  hand- 
writing! " 

"The  Commissary's?" 

"The  Commissary's?"  echoed  the  village 
councillors  mechanically. 

"The  Commissary's?  Wonderful!  Still 
more  incomprehensible!  "  thought  Levko. 

"  Eead !  Eead !  "  said  the  headman.  "  What 
does  the  Commissary  write?" 

"Let  us  hear!"  exclaimed  the  distiller, 
holding  his  pipe  between  his  teeth,  and  light- 
ing it. 

The  notary  cleared  his  throat  and  began  to 
read. 

"'Order  to  the  headman,  Javtuk  Mako- 
honenko. 

"  '  It  has  been  brought  to  our  knowledge  that 
you,  old  id -'  " 

"Stop!  Stop!  That  is  unnecessary!"  ex- 
claimed the  headman.  ''Even  if  I  have  not 
heard  it,  I  know  that  that  is  not  the  chief  matter. 
Eead  further ! " 

"  '  Consequently  I  order  you  at  once  to  marry 


A   MAY   NIGHT  183 

your  son,  Levko  Makohonenko,  to  the  Cossack's 
daughter,  Hanna  Petritchenka,  to  repair  the 
bridges  on  the  post-road,  and  to  give  no  horses 
belonging  to  the  lords  of  the  manor  to  the 
county-court  magistrates  without  my  knowledge. 
If  on  my  arrival  I  do  not  find  these  orders  carried 
out,  I  shall  hold  you  singly  responsible. 
±f '  Lieut.  Kosma  Derkatch-Drischpanowski, 
" -  Commissary.3  -' 

"There  we  have  it!"  exclaimed  the  head- 
man, with  his  mouth  open.  ' '  Have  you  heard 
it  ?  The  headman  is  made  responsible  for  every- 
thing, and  therefore  everyone  has  to  obey  him 
without  contradiction. !  Otherwise,  I  beg  to  resign 
my  office.  And  you,"  he  continued,  turning  to 
Levko,  "  I  will  have  married^  as  the  Commissary 
directs,  though  it  seems  to  me  strange  how  he 
knows  of  the  affair ;  but  you  will  get  a  taste  of  my 
knout  first — the  one,  you  know,  which  hangs  on 
the  wall  at  my  bed-head.  But  how  did  you  get 
hold  of  the  note?" 

Levko,  in  spite  of  the  astonishment  which  the 
unexpected  turn  of  affairs  caused  him,  had  had 
the  foresight  to  prepare  an  answer,  and  to  con- 
ceal the  way  in  which  the  note  had  come  into 
his  possession.  "  I  was  in  the  town  last  night," 
he  said,  ' '  and  met  the  Commissary  just  as 
he  was  alighting  from  his  droshky.  When  he 
heard  from  which  village  I  was  he  gave  me  the 


184  A    MAY    NIGHT 

note  and  bid  me  tell  you  by  word  of  mouth, 
father,  that  he  would  dine  with  us  on  his  way 
back/' 

"Did  he  say  that?" 

'-'Yes." 

"Have  you  heard  it?"  said  the  headman, 
with  a  solemn  air  turning  to  his  companions. 
"The  Commissary  himself,  in  his  own  person, 
comes  to  us,  that  is  to  me,  to  dine."  The 
headman  lifted  a  finger  and  bent  his  head  as 
though  he  were  listening  to  something.  "The 
Commissary,  do  you  hear,  the  Commissary  is 
coming  to  dine  with  me !  What  do  you  think, 
Mr  Notary?  And  what  do  you  think,  friend? 
That  is  not  a  little  honour,  is  it?  " 

' '  As  far  as  I  can  recollect, ' '  the  notary  broke 
in,  ' '  no  Commissary  has  ever  dined  with  a 
headman." 

"All  headmen  are  not  alike,"  he  answered 
with  a  self-satisfied  air.  Then  he  uttered  a 
hoarse  laugh  and  said,  ' '  What  do  you  think, 
Mr  Notary?  Isn't  it  right  to  order  that  in 
honour  of  the  distinguished  guest,  a  fowl,  linen, 
and  other  things  should  be  offered  by  every 
cottage  ? %  3 

**  Yes,  they  should." 

"And  when  is  the  wedding  to  be,  father?" 
asked  Levko. 

"  Wedding !  I  should  like  to  celebrate  your 
wedding  in  my  way!     Well,  in  honour  of  the 


A   MAY    NIGHT  185 

distinguished  guest,  to-morrow  the  pope *  will 
marry  you.  Let  the  Commissary  see  that  you 
are  punctual.  Now,  children,  we  will  go  to  bed. 
Go    to    your    houses.     The    present    occasion 

reminds  me  of  the  time  when  I "     At  these 

words  the  headman  assumed  his  customary 
solemn  air. 

' '  Now  the  headman  will  relate  how  he  accom- 
panied the  Czarina ! ' '  said  Levko  to  himself,  and 
hastened  quickly,  and  full  of  joy,  to  the  cherry- 
tree-shaded  house,  which  we  know.  "  May  God 
bless  you,  beloved,  and  the  holy  angels  smile 
on  you.  To  no  one  will  I  relate  the  wonders  of 
this  night  except  to  you,  Hanna;  you  alone  will 
believe  it,  and  pray  with  me  for  the  repose  of  the 
souls  of  the  poor  drowned  maidens." 

He  approached  the  house;  the  window  was 
open;  the  moonbeams  fell  on  Hanna,  who  was 
sleeping  by  it.  Her  head  was  supported  on  her 
arm;  her  cheeks  glowed;  her  lips  moved,  gently 
murmuring  his  name. 

"  Sleep  sweetly,  my  darling.  Dream  of 
everything  that  is  good,  and  yet  the  awaking  will 
surpass  all."  He  made  the  sign  of  the  cross 
over  her,  closed  the  window,  and  gently  with- 
drew. 

In  a  few  moments  the  whole  village  was  buried 
in  slumber.  Only  the  moon  hung  as  brilliant 
and  wonderful  as  before  in  the  immensity  of 
1  Village  priest. 


186  A   MAY    NIGHT 

the  Ukraine  sky.  The  divine  night  continued 
her  reign  in  solemn  stillness,  while  the  earth 
lay  bathed  in  silvery  radiance.  The  universal 
silence  was  only  broken  here  and  there  by  the 
bark  of  a  dog;  only  the  drunken  Kalenik  still 
wandered  about  the  empty  streets  seeking  for  his 
house. 


THE    VIY 

(The  "  Viy  "  isa  monstrous  creation  of  popular 
fancy.  It  is  the  name  which  the  inhabitants  of 
Little  Russia  give  to  the  king  of  the  gnomes,  whose 
eyelashes  reach  to  the  ground.  The  following  story 
is  a  specimen  of  such  folk-lore.  I  have  made  no 
alterations,  but  reproduce  it  in  the  same  simple  form 
in  which  I  heard  it. — Authok's  Note.) 


As  soon  as  the  clear  seminary  bell  began 
sounding  in  Kieff  in  the  morning,  the  pupils 
would  come  flocking  from  all  parts  of  the  town. 
The  students  of  grammar,  rhetoric,  philosophy, 
and  theology  hastened  with  their  books  under 
their  arms  over  the  streets. 

The  ' '  grammarians  ' '  were  still  mere  boys. 
On  the  way  they  pushed  against  each  other  and 
quarrelled  with  shrill  voices.  Nearly  all  of  them 
wore  torn  or  dirty  clothes,  and  their  pockets  were 
always  crammed  with  all  kinds  of  things — push- 
bones,  pipes  made  out  of  pens,  remains  of  con- 
fectionery, and  sometimes  even  young  sparrows. 
The  latter  would  sometimes  begin  to  chirp  in  the 
midst  of  deep  silence  in  the  school,  and  bring 

187 


188  THE  VIY 

down  on  their  possessors  severe  canings  and 
thrashings. 

The  "  rhetoricians  "  walked  in  a  more  orderly 
way.  Their  clothes  were  generally  untorn,  but 
on  the  other  hand  their  faces  were  often 
strangely  decorated;  one  had  a  black  eye,  and 
the  lips  of  another  resembled  a  single  blister, 
etc.  These  spoke  to  each  other  in  tenor 
voices. 

The  "  philosophers "  talked  in  a  tone  an 
octave  lower;  in  their  pockets  they  only  had 
fragments  of  tobacco,  never  whole  cakes  of  it; 
for  what  they  could  get  hold  of,  they  used  at 
once.  They  smelt  so  strongly  of  tobacco  and 
brandy,  that  a  workman  passing  by  them  would 
often  remain  standing  and  sniffing  with  his  nose 
in  the  air,  like  a  hound. 

About  this  time  of  day  the  market-place  was 
generally  full  of  bustle,  and  the  market  women, 
selling  rolls,  cakes,  and  honey-tarts,  plucked  the 
sleeves  of  those  who  wore  coats  of  fine  cloth  or 
cotton. 

"  Young  sir!  Young  sir!  Here!  Here!" 
they  cried  from  all  sides.  "Bolls  and  cakes 
and  tasty  tarts,  very  delicious !  I  have  baked 
them  myself!  M 

Another  drew  something  long  and  crooked 
out  of  her  basket  and  cried,  ' c  Here  is  a  sausage, 
young  sir !     Buy  a  sausage !  " 

"Don't  buy  anything  from  her!"  cried  a 


THE  VIY  189 

rival.  "See  how  greasy  she  is,  and  what  a 
dirty  nose  and  hands  she  has !  M 

But  the  market  women  carefully  avoided 
appealing  to  the  philosophers  and  theologians, 
for  these  only  took  handfuls  of  eatables  merely 
to  taste  them. 

Arrived  at  the  seminary,  the  whole  crowd  of 
students  dispersed  into  the  low,  large  class- 
rooms with  small  windows,  broad  doors,  and 
blackened  benches.  Suddenly  they  were  filled 
with  a  many-toned  murmur.  The  teachers 
heard  the  pupils'  lessons  repeated,  some  in  shrill 
and  others  in  deep  voices  which  sounded  like  a 
distant  booming.  While  the  lessons  were  being 
said,  the  teachers  kept  a  sharp  eye  open  to  see 
whether  pieces  of  cake  or  other  dainties  were 
protruding  from  their  pupils'  pockets ;  if  so,  they 
were  promptly  confiscated. 

When  this  learned  crowd  arrived  somewhat 
earlier  than  usual,  or  when  it  was  known  that  the 
teachers  would  come  somewhat  late,  a  battle 
would  ensue,  as  though  planned  by  general 
agreement.  In  this  battle  all  had  to  take  part, 
even  the  monitors  who  were  appointed  to  look 
after  the  order  and  morality  of  the  whole  school. 
Two  theologians  generally  arranged  the  condi- 
tions of  the  battle  :  whether  each  class  should 
split  into  two  sides,  or  whether  all  the  pupils 
should  divide  themselves  into  two  halves. 

In  each  case  the  grammarians  began  the  battle. 


190  THE  VIY 

and  after  the  rhetoricians  had  joined  in,  the 
former  retired  and  stood  on  the  benches,  in  order 
to  watch  the  fortunes  of  the  fray.  Then  came 
the  philosophers  with  long  black  moustaches,  and 
finally  the  thick-necked  theologians.  The  battle 
generally  ended  in  a  victory  for  the  latter, 
and  the  philosophers  retired  to  the  different 
class-rooms  rubbing  their  aching  limbs,  and 
throwing  themselves  on  the  benches  to  take 
breath. 

When  the  teacher,  who  in  his  own  time  had 
taken  part  in  such  contests,  entered  the  class- 
room he  saw  by  the  heated  faces  of  his  pupils  that 
the  battle  had  been  very  severe,  and  while  he 
caned  the  hands  of  the  rhetoricians,  in  another 
room  another  teacher  did  the  same  for  the 
philosophers. 

On  Sundays  and  Festival  Days  the  seminarists 
took  puppet- theatres  to  the  citizens'  houses. 
Sometimes  they  acted  a  comedy,  and  in  that  case 
it  was  always  a  theologian  who  took  the  part  of 
the  hero  or  heroine — Potiphar  or  Herodias,  etc. 
As  a  reward  for  their  exertions,  they  received  a 
piece  of  linen,  a  sack  of  maize,  half  a  roast 
goose,  or  something  similar.  All  the  students, 
lay  and  clerical,  were  very  poorly  provided  with 
means  for  procuring  themselves  necessary  sub- 
sistence, but  at  the  same  time  very  fond  of 
eating;  so  that,  however  much  food  was  given 
to  them,   they  were  never  satisfied,   and  the 


THE  VIY  191 

gifts  bestowed  by  rich  landowners  were  never 
adequate  for  their  needs. 

Therefore  the  Commissariat  Committee,  con- 
sisting of  philosophers  and  theologians,  some- 
times dispatched  the  grammarians  and  rhetori- 
cians under  the  leadership  of  a  philosopher — 
themselves  sometimes  joining  in  the  expedition — 
with  sacks  on  their  shoulders,  into  the  town,  in 
order  to  levy  a  contribution  on  the  neshpots  of 
the  citizens,  and  then  there  was  a  feast  in  the 
seminary. 

The  most  important  event  in  the  seminary  year 
was  the  arrival  of  the  holidays;  these  began  in 
July,  and  then  generally  all  the  students  went 
home.  At  that  time  all  the  roads  were  thronged 
with  grammarians,  rhetoricians,  philosophers, 
and  theologians.  He  who  had  no  home  of  his  ownt 
would  take  up  his  quarters  with  some  fellow- 
student's  family;  the  philosophers  and  theo- 
logians looked  out  for  tutors'  posts,  taught  the 
children  of  rich  farmers,  and  received  for  doing 
so  a  pair  of  new  boots  and  sometimes  also  a  new 
coat, 

A  whole  troop  of  them  would  go  off  in  close 
ranks  like  a  regiment ;  they  cooked  their  porridge 
in  common,  and  encamped  under  the  open  sky. 
Each  had  a  bag  with  him  containing  a  shirt  and 
a  pair  of  socks.  The  theologians  were  especially 
economical ;  in  order  not  to  wear  out  their  boots 
too  quickly,  they  took  them  off  and  carried  theni 


192  THE  VIY 

on  a  stick  over  their  shoulders,  especially  when 
the  road  was  very  muddy.  Then  they  tucked 
up  their  breeches  over  their  knees  and  waded 
bravely  through  the  pools  and  puddles.  When- 
ever they  spied  a  village  near  the  highway,  they 
at  once  left  it,  approached  the  house  which 
seemed  the  most  considerable,  and  began  with 
loud  voices  to  sing  a  psalm.  The  master  of  the 
house,  an  old  Cossack  engaged  in  agriculture, 
would  listen  for  a  long  time  with  his  head  propped 
in  his  hands,  then  with  tears  on  his  cheeks  say 
to  his  wife,  "What  the  students  are  singing 
sounds  very  devout;  bring  out  some  lard  and 
anything  else  of  the  kind  we  have  in  the  house.' * 

After  thus  replenishing  their  stores,  the 
students  would  continue  their  way.  The  farther 
they  went,  the  smaller  grew  their  numbers,  as 
they  dispersed  to  their  various  houses,  and  left 
those  whose  homes  were  still  farther  on. 

On  one  occasion,  during  such  a  march,  three 
students  left  the  main-road  in  order  to  get 
provisions  in  some  village,  since  their  stock  had 
long  been  exhausted.  This  party  consisted  of 
the  theologian  Khalava,  the  philosopher  Thomas 
Brutus,  and  the  rhetorician  Tiberius  Gorobetz. 

The  first  was  a  tall  youth  with  broad  shoulders 
and  of  a  peculiar  character;  everything  which 
came  within  reach  of  his  fingers  he  felt  obliged 
to  appropriate.  Moreover,  he  was  of  a  very 
melancholy  disposition,   and  when  he  had  got 


THE  VIY  193 

intoxicated  he  hid  himself  in  the  most  tangled 
thickets  so  that  the  seminary  officials  had  the 
greatest  trouble  in  finding  him. 

The  philosopher  Thomas  Brutus  was  a  more 
cheerful  character.  He  liked  to  lie  for  a  long 
time  on  the  same  spot  and  smoke  his  pipe;  and 
when  he  was  merry  with  wine,  he  hired  a  fiddler 
and  danced  the  "  tropak."  Often  he  got  a 
whole  quantity  of  "beans/'  i.e.  thrashings; 
but  these  he  endured  with  complete  philosophic 
calm,  saying  that  a  man  cannot  escape  his 
destiny. 

The  rhetorician  Tiberius  Gorobetz  had  not  yet 
the  right  to  wear  a  moustache,  to  drink  brandy, 
or  to  smoke  tobacco.  He  only  wore  a  small  crop 
of  hair,  as  though  his  character  was  at  present 
too  little  developed.  To  judge  by  the  great 
bumps  on  his  forehead,  with  which  he  often 
appeared  in  the  class-room,  it  might  be  expected 
that  some  day  he  would  be  a  valiant  fighter. 
Khalava  and  Thomas  often  pulled  his  hair  as  a 
mark  of  their  special  favour,  and  sent  him  on 
their  errands. 

Evening  had  already  come  when  they  left  the 
high-road;  the  sun  had  just  gone  down,  and  the 
air  was  still  heavy  with  the  heat  of  the  day.  The 
theologian  and  the  philosopher  strolled  along, 
smoking  in  silence,  while  the  rhetorician  struck 
off  the  heads  of  the  thistles  by  the  wayside  with 
his  stick.     The  way  wound  on  through  thick 

N 


194  THE  VIY 

woods  of  oak  and  walnut;  green  hills  alternated 
here  and  there  with  meadows.  Twice  already 
they  had  seen  cornfields,  from  which  they  con- 
cluded that  they  were  near  some  village;  but  an 
hour  had  already  passed,  and  no  human  habita- 
tion appeared.  The  sky  was  already  quite  dark, 
and  only  a  red  gleam  lingered  on  the  western 
horizon. 

' '  The  deuce  !  ' '  said  the  philosopher  Thomas 
Brutus.  "  I  was  almost  certain  we  would  soon 
reach  a  village." 

The  theologian  still  remained  silent,  looked 
round  him,  then  put  his  pipe  again  between  his 
teeth,  and  all  three  continued  their  way. 

' '  Good  heavens  !  ' '  exclaimed  the  philosopher, 
and  stood  still.  "Now  the  road  itself  is  dis- 
appearing." 

"Perhaps  we  shall  find  a  farm  farther  on," 
answered  the  theologian,  without  taking  his  pipe 
out  of  his  mouth. 

Meanwhile  the  night  had  descended;  clouds 
increased  the  darkness,  and  according  to  all 
appearance  there  was  no  chance  of  moon  or  stars 
appearing.  The  seminarists  found  that  they  had 
lost  the  way  altogether. 

After  the  philosopher  had  vainly  sought  for  a 
footpath,  he  exclaimed,  "Where  have  we  got 
to?" 

The  theologian  thought  for  a  while,  and  said, 
"  Yes,  it  is  really  dark." 


THE  VIY  195 

The  rhetorician  went  on  one  side,  lay  on  the 
ground,  and  groped  for  a  path;  but  his  hands 
encountered  only  fox-holes.  All  around  lay  a 
huge  steppe  over  which  no  one  seemed  to  have 
passed.  The  wanderers  made  several  efforts  to 
get  forward,  but  the  landscape  grew  wilder  and 
more  inhospitable. 

The  philosopher  tried  to  shout,  but  his  voice 
was  lost  in  vacancy,  no  one  answered ;  only,  some 
moments  later,  they  heard  a  faint  groaning 
sound,  like  the  whimpering  of  a  wolf. 

"  Curse  it  all !  What  shall  we  do?  "  said  the 
philosopher. 

' '  Why,  just  stop  here,  and  spend  the  night  in 
the  open  air,"  answered  the  theologian.  So 
saying,  he  felt  in  his  pocket,  brought  out  his 
timber  and  steel,  and  lit  his  pipe. 

But  the  philosopher  could  not  agree  with  this 
proposal ;  he  was  not  accustomed  to  sleep  till  he 
had  first  eaten  five  pounds  of  bread  and  five  of 
dripping,  and  so  he  now  felt  an  intolerable 
emptiness  in  his  stomach.  Besides,  in  spite  of 
his  cheerful  temperament,  he  was  a  little  afraid 
of  the  wolves. 

"No,  Khalava,"  he  said,  "that  won't  do. 
To  lie  down  like  a  dog  and  without  any  supper ! 
Let  us  try  once  more;  perhaps  we  shall  find  a 
house,  and  the  consolation  of  having  a  glass  of 
brandy  to  drink  before  going  to  sleep." 

At  the  word  "  brandy,"  the  theologian  spat 


196  THE  VIY 

on  one  side  and  said,  "  Yes,  of  course,  we  can- 
not remain  all  night  in  the  open  air." 

The  students  went  on  and  on,  and  to  their  great 
joy  they  heard  the  barking  of  dogs  in  the  dis- 
tance. After  listening  a  while  to  see  from  which 
direction  the  barking  came,  they  went  on  their 
way  with  new  courage,  and  soon  espied  a  light. 

"A  village,  by  heavens,  a  village!''  ex- 
claimed the  philosopher. 

His  supposition  proved  correct ;  they  soon  saw 
two  or  three  houses  built  round  a  court-yard. 
Lights  glimmered  in  the  windows,  and  before 
the  fence  stood  a  number  of  trees.  The  students 
looked  through  the  crevices  of  the  gates  and  saw 
a  court-yard  in  which  stood  a  large  number  of 
roving  tradesmen's  carts.  In  the  sky  there  were 
now  fewer  clouds,  and  here  and  there  a  star  was 
visible. 

"  See,  brother !  "  one  of  them  said,  "  we  must 
now  cry  '  halt ! '  Cost  what  it  may,  we  must  find 
entrance  and  a  night's  lodging." 

The  three  students  knocked  together  at  the 
gate,  and  cried  "  Open !  " 

The  door  of  one  of  the  houses  creaked  on  its 
hinges,  and  an  old  woman  wrapped  in  a  sheepskin 
appeared.  "Who  is  there?"  she  exclaimed, 
coughing  loudly. 

"Let  us  spend  the  night  here,  mother;  we 
have  lost  our  way,  our  stomachs  are  empty,  and 
we  do  not  want  to  spend  the  night  out  of  doors." 


THE  VIY  197 

V  But  what  sort  of  people  are  you?  " 
Quite     harmless     people ;     the     theologian 
Khalava,     the    philosopher    Brutus,     and    the 
rhetorician  Gorobetz." 

"  It  is  impossible,"  answered  the  old  woman. 
'  The  whole  house  is  full  of  people,  and  every 
corner  occupied.  Where  can  I  put  you  up? 
You  are  big  and  heavy  enough  to  break  the  house 
down.  I  know  these  philosophers  and  theolo- 
gians ;  when  once  one  takes  them  in,  they  eat  one 
out  of  house  and  home.  Go  farther  on  !  There 
is  no  room  here  for  you !  ' ' 

"  Have  pity  on  us,  mother !  How  can  you  be 
so  heartless?  Don't  let  Christians  perish.  Put 
us  up  where  you  like,  and  if  we  eat  up  your  pro- 
visions, or  do  any  other  damage,  may  our  hands 
wither  up,  and  all  the  punishment  of  heaven  light 
on  us ! ' ' 

The  old  woman  seemed  a  little  touched. 
"Well,"  she  said  after  a  few  moments'  con- 
sideration, "  I  will  let  you  in ;  but  I  must  put  you 
in  different  rooms,  for  I  should  have  no  quiet  if 
you  were  all  together  at  night." 

"  Do  just  as  you  like;  we  won't  say  any  more 
about  it,"  answered  the  students. 

The  gates  moved  heavily  on  their  hinges,  and 
they  entered  the  court-yard. 

"Well  now,  mother,"  said  the  philosopher, 
following  the  old  woman,  ' '  if  you  had  a  little 
scrap  of  something !    By  heavens !  my  stomach 


198  THE  VIY 

is  as  empty  as  a  drum.  I  have  not  had  a  bit  of 
bread  in  my  mouth  since  early  this  morning!  " 

"Didn't  I  say  so?"  replied  the  old  woman. 
"  There  you  go  begging  at  once.  But  I  have  no 
food  in  the  house,  nor  any  fire." 

"  But  we  will  pay  for  everything,"  continued 
the  philosopher. 

"  We  will  pay  early  to-morrow  in  cash." 

"Go  on  and  be  content  with  what  you  get. 
You  are  fine  fellows  whom  the  devil  has  brought 
here!" 

Her  reply  greatly  depressed  the  philosopher 
Thomas ;  but  suddenly  his  nose  caught  the  odour 
of  dried  fish;  he  looked  at  the  breeches  of  the 
theologian,  who  walked  by  his  side,  and  saw  a 
huge  fish's  tail  sticking  out  of  his  pocket.  The 
latter  had  already  seized  the  opportunity  to  steal 
a  whole  fish  from  one  of  the  carts  standing  in  the 
court-yard.  He  had  not  done  this  from  hunger 
so  much  as  from  the  force  of  habit.  He  had 
quite  forgotten  the  fish,  and  was  looking  about 
to  see  whether  he  could  not  find  something  else 
to  appropriate.  Then  the  philosopher  put  his 
hand  in  the  theologian's  pocket  as  though  it  were 
his  own,  and  laid  hold  of  his  prize. 

The  old  woman  found  a  special  resting-place 
for  each  student;  the  rhetorician  she  put  in  a 
shed,  the  theologian  in  an  empty  store-room,  and 
the  philosopher  in  a  sheep's  stall. 

4s  soon  as  the  philosopher  was  alone,  he 


THE  VIY  199 

devoured  the  fish  in  a  twinkling,  examined  the 
fence  which  enclosed  the  stall,  kicked  away  a 
pig  from  a  neighbouring  stall,  which  had  in- 
quiringly inserted  its  nose  through  a  crevice, 
and  lay  down  on  his  right  side  to  sleep  like  a 
corpse. 

Then  the  low  door  opened,  and  the  old  woman 
came  crouching  into  the  stall. 

"Well,  mother,  what  do  you  want  here?" 
asked  the  philosopher. 

She  made  no  answer,  but  came  with  out- 
stretched arms  towards  him. 

The  philosopher  shrank  back;  but  she  still 
approached,  as  though  she  wished  to  lay  hold  of 
him.  A  terrible  fright  seized  him,  for  he  saw 
the  old  hag's  eyes  sparkle  in  an  extraordinary 
way.  "Away  with  you,  old  witch,  away  with 
you!  "  he  shouted.  But  she  still  stretched  her 
hands  after  him. 

He  jumped  up  in  order  to  rush  out,  but  she 
placed  herself  before  the  door,  fixed  her  glowing 
eyes  upon  him,  and  again  approached  him.  The 
philosopher  tried  to  push  her  away  with  his 
hands,  but  to  his  astonishment  he  found  that  he 
could  neither  lift  his  hands  nor  move  his  legs, 
nor  utter  an  audible  word.  He  only  heard  his 
heart  beating,  and  saw  the  old  woman  approach 
him,  place  his  hands  crosswise  on  his  breast,  and 
bend  his  head  down.  Then  with  the  agility  of 
a  pat  she  sprang  on  his  shoulders,  struck  him  gn 


200  THE  VIY 

the  side  with  a  broom,  and  he  began  to  run  like 
a  race-horse,  carrying  her  on  his  shoulders. 

All  this  happened  with  such  swiftness,  that  the 
philosopher  could  scarcely  collect  his  thoughts. 
He  laid  hold  of  his  knees  with  both  hands  in 
order  to  stop  his  legs  from  running;  but  to  his 
great  astonishment  they  kept  moving  forward 
against  his  will,  making  rapid  springs  like  a 
Caucasian  horse. 

Not  till  the  house  had  been  left  behind  them 
and  a  wide  plain  stretched  before  them,  bordered 
on  one  side  by  a  black  gloomy  wood,  did  he  say 
to  himself,  ' '  Ah  !  it  is  a  witch  !  ' ' 

The  half -moon  shone  pale  and  high  in  the  sky. 
Its  mild  light,  still  more  subdued  by  intervening 
clouds,  fell  like  a  transparent  veil  on  the  earth. 
Woods,  meadows,  hills,  and  valleys — all  seemed 
to  be  sleeping  with  open  eyes;  nowhere  was  a 
breath  of  air  stirring.  The  atmosphere  was  moist 
and  warm;  the  shadows  of  the  trees  and  bushes 
fell  sharply  defined  on  the  sloping  plain.  Such 
was  the  night  through  which  the  philosopher 
Thomas  Brutus  sped  with  his  strange  rider. 

A  strange,  oppressive,  and  yet  sweet  sensa- 
tion took  possession  of  his  heart.  He  looked 
down  and  saw  how  the  grass  beneath  his  feet 
seemed  to  be  quite  deep  and  far  away;  over  it 
there  flowed  a  flood  of  crystal-clear  water,  and 
the  grassy  plain  looked  like  the  bottom  of  a  trans- 
parent sea.     He  saw  his  own  image,  and  that 


THE  VIY  201 

of  the  old  woman  whom  he  carried  on  his  back, 
clearly  reflected  in  it.  Then  he  beheld  how, 
instead  of  the  moon,  a  strange  sun  shone  there ; 
he  heard  the  deep  tones  of  bells,  and  saw  them 
swinging.  He  saw  a  water-nixie  rise  from  a  bed 
of  tall  reeds;  she  turned  to  him,  and  her  face 
was  clearly  visible,  and  she  sang  a  song  which 
penetrated  his  soul;  then  she  approached  him 
and  nearly  reached  the  surface  of  the  water,  on 
which  she  burst  into  laughter  and  again  dis- 
appeared. 

Did  he  see  it  or  did  he  not  see  it?  Was  he 
dreaming  or  was  he  awake  ?  But  what  was  that 
below — wind  or  music?  It  sounded  and  drew 
nearer,  and  penetrated  his  soul  like  a  song  that 
rose  and  fell.  "What  is  it?"  he  thought  as  he 
gazed  into  the  depths,  and  still  sped  rapidly  along. 

The  perspiration  flowed  from  him  in  streams; 
he  experienced  simultaneously  a  strange  feeling 
of  oppression  and  delight  in  all  his  being.  Often 
he  felt  as  though  he  had  no  longer  a  heart,  and 
pressed  his  hand  on  his  breast  with  alarm. 

Weary  to  death,  he  began  to  repeat  all  the 
prayers  which  he  knew,  and  all  the  formulas 
of  exorcism  against  evil  spirits.  Suddenly  he 
experienced  a  certain  relief.  He  felt  that  his 
pace  was  slackening;  the  witch  weighed  less 
heavily  on  his  shoulders,  and  the  thick  herbage 
of  the  plain  was  again  beneath  his  feet,  with 
nothing  especial  to  remark  about  it, 


202  THE  VIY 

"Splendid!"  thought  the  philosopher 
Thomas,  and  began  to  repeat  his  exorcisms  in  a 
still  louder  voice. 

Then  suddenly  he  wrenched  himself  away  from 
under  the  witch,  and  sprang  on  her  back  in  his 
turn.  She  began  to  run,  with  short,  trembling 
steps  indeed,  but  so  rapidly  that  he  could  hardly 
breathe.  So  swiftly  did  she  run  that  she  hardly 
seemed  to  touch  the  ground.  They  were  still  on 
the  plain,  but  owing  to  the  rapidity  of  their 
flight  everything  seemed  indistinct  and  confused 
before  his  eyes.  He  seized  a  stick  that  was 
lying  on  the  ground,  and  began  to  belabour  the 
hag  with  all  his  might.  She  uttered  a  wild  cry, 
which  at  first  sounded  raging  and  threatening; 
then  it  became  gradually  weaker  and  more 
gentle,  till  at  last  it  sounded  quite  low  like  the 
pleasant  tones  of  a  silver  bell,  so  that  it  pene- 
trated his  innermost  soul.  Involuntarily  the 
thought  passed  through  his  mind : 

4  f  Is  she  really  an  old  woman  ?  ' ' 

"Ah!  I  can  go  no  farther/'  she  said  in  a 
faint  voice,  and  sank  to  the  earth. 

He  knelt  beside  her,  and  looked  in  her  eyes. 
The  dawn  was  red  in  the  sky,  and  in  the  distance 
glimmered  the  gilt  domes  of  the  churches  of  Kieff . 
Before  him  lay  a  beautiful  maiden  with  thick, 
dishevelled  hair  and  long  eyelashes.  Uncon- 
sciously she  had  stretched  out  her  white,  bare 
arms,  and  her  tear-filled  eyes  gazed  at  the  sky. 


THE  VIY  203 

Thomas  trembled  like  an  aspen-leaf.  Sym- 
pathy, and  a  strange  feeling  of  excitement,  and  a 
hitherto  unknown  fear  overpowered  him.  He 
began  to  run  with  all  his  might.  His  heart  beat 
violently,  and  he  could  not  explain  to  himself 
what  a  strange,  new  feeling  had  seized  him.  He 
did  not  wish  to  return  to  the  village,  but  hastened 
towards  Kieff,  thinking  all  the  way  as  he  went 
of  his  weird,  unaccountable  adventure. 

There  were  hardly  any  students  left  in  the 
town ;  they  were  all  scattered  about  the  country, 
and  had  either  taken  tutors'  posts  or  simply  lived 
without  occupation;  for  at  the  farms  in  Little 
Russia  one  can  live  comfortably  and  at  ease  with- 
out paying  a  farthing.  The  great  half -decayed 
building  in  which  the  seminary  was  established 
was  completely  empty;  and  however  much  the 
philosopher  searched  in  all  its  corners  for  a  piece 
of  lard  and  bread,  he  could  not  find  even  one 
of  the  hard  biscuits  which  the  seminarists  were  in 
the  habit  of  hiding. 

But  the  philosopher  found  a  means  of  extri- 
cating himself  from  his  difficulties  by  making 
friends  with  a  certain  young  widow  in  the  market- 
place who  sold  ribbons,  etc.  The  same  evening 
he  found  himself  being  stuffed  with  cakes  and 
fowl;  in  fact  it  is  impossible  to  say  how  many 
things  were  placed  before  him  on  a  little  table 
in  an  arbour  shaded  by  cherry-trees. 

Later,  on  the  same  evening  the  philosopher  was 


204  THE  VIY 

to  be  seen  in  an  ale-house.  He  lay  on  a  bench, 
smoked  his  pipe  in  his  usual  way,  and  threw  the 
Jewish  publican  a  gold  piece.  He  had  a  jug  of 
ale  standing  before  him,  looked  on  all  who  went 
in  and  out  in  a  cold-blooded,  self-satisfied  way, 
and  thought  no  more  of  his  strange  adventure. 


About  this  time  a  report  spread  about  that  the 
daughter  of  a  rich  colonel,  whose  estate  lay  about 
fifty  versts  distant  from  Kieff ,  had  returned  home 
one  day  from  a  walk  in  a  quite  broken-down  con- 
dition. She  had  scarcely  enough  strength  to 
reach  her  father's  house;  now  she  lay  dying,  and 
had  expressed  a  wish  that  for  three  days  after 
her  death  the  prayers  for  the  dead  should  be 
recited  by  a  Kieff  seminarist  named  Thomas 
Brutus. 

This  fact  was  communicated  to  the  philosopher 
by  the  rector  of  the  seminary  himself,  who  sent 
for  him  to  his  room  and  told  him  that  he  must 
start  at  once,  as  a  rich  colonel  had  sent  his 
servants  and  a  kibitka  for  him.  The  philosopher 
trembled,  and  was  seized  by  an  uncomfortable 
feeling  which  he  could  not  define.  He  had  a 
gloomy  foreboding  that  some  evil  was  about  to 
befall  him.  Without  knowing  why,  he  declared 
that  he  did  not  wish  to  go. 

"  Listen,  Thomas,"  said  the  rector,  who 
under  certain  circumstances  spoke  very  politely 


THE  VIY  205 

to  his  pupils ;  "  I  have  no  idea  of  asking  you 
whether  you  wish  to  go  or  not.  I  only  tell  you 
that  if  you  think  of  disobeying,  I  will  have  you 
so  soundly  flogged  on  the  back  with  young  birch- 
rods,  that  you  need  not  think  of  having  a  bath 
for  a  long  time." 

The  philosopher  scratched  the  back  of  his 
head,  and  went  out  silently,  intending  to  make 
himself  scarce  at  the  first  opportunity.  Lost  in 
thought,  he  descended  the  steep  flight  of  steps 
which  led  to  the  court-yard,  thickly  planted 
with  poplars;  there  he  remained  standing  for  a 
moment,  and  heard  quite  distinctly  the  rector 
giving  orders  in  a  loud  voice  to  his  steward, 
vvd  to  another  person,  probably  one  of  the 
messengers  sent  by  the  colonel. 

1 '  Thank  your  master  for  the  peeled  barley  and 
the  eggs/'  said  the  rector;  "and  tell  him  that 
as  soon  as  the  books  which  he  mentions  in  his 
note  are  ready,  I  will  send  them.  I  have  already 
given  them  to  a  clerk  to  be  copied.  And  don't 
forget  to  remind  your  master  that  he  has  some 
excellent  fish,  especially  prime  sturgeon,  in  his 
ponds;  he  might  send  me  some  when  he  has  the 
opportunity,  as  here  in  the  market  the  fish 
are  bad  and  dear.  And  you,  Jantukh,  give  the 
colonel's  man  a  glass  of  brandy.  And  mind  you 
tie  up  the  philosopher,  or  he  will  show  you  a 
clean  pair  of  heels." 

' '  Listen    to    the    scoundrel ! ' '    thought    the 


206  THE  VIY 

philosopher.     "He  has  smelt  a  rat,  the  long- 
legged  stork!  " 

He  descended  into  the  court-yard  and  beheld 
there  a  kibitka,  which  he  at  first  took  for  a  barn 
on  wheels.  It  was,  in  fact,  as  roomy  as  a  kiln, 
so  that  bricks  might  have  been  made  inside  it. 
It  was  one  of  those  remarkable  Cracow  vehicles 
in  which  Jews  travelled  from  town  to  town  in 
scores,  wherever  they  thought  they  would  find  a 
market.  Six  stout,  strong,  though  somewhat 
elderly  Cossacks  were  standing  by  it.  Their 
gold-braided  coats  of  fine  cloth  showed  that 
their  master  was  rich  and  of  some  importance; 
and  certain  little  scars  testified  to  their  valour 
on  the  battle-field. 

"What  can  I  do?"  thought  the  philosopher. 
"  There  is  no  escaping  one's  destiny/ !  So  he 
stepped  up  to  the  Cossacks  and  said  ' '  Good  day, 
comrades." 

"  Welcome,  Mr  Philosopher !  "  some  of  them 
answered. 

*  •  Well,  I  am  to  travel  with  you !  It  is  a 
magnificent  vehicle,"  he  continued  as  he  got 
into  it.  "If  there  were  only  musicians  present, 
one  might  dance  in  it." 

"  Yes,  it  is  a  roomy  carriage,"  said  one  of  the 
Cossacks,  taking  his  seat  by  the  coachman.  The 
latter  had  tied  a  cloth  round  his  head,  as  he  had 
already  found  an  opportunity  of  pawning  his  cap 
in    the   ale-house.     The  other   five,    with  the 


THE  VIY  207 

philosopher,  got  into  the  capacious  kibitka,  and 
sat  upon  sacks  which  were  filled  with  all  sorts 
of  articles  purchased  in  the  city. 

:c  I  should  like  to  know,"  said  the  philosopher, 

'  if  this  equipage  were  laden  with  salt  or  iron, 

how  many  horses  would  be  required  to  draw  it?  ** 

'Yes,"   said  the  Cossack  who   sat  by    the 

coachman,  after  thinking  a  short  time,  "  it  would 

require  a  good  many  horses." 

After  giving  this  satisfactory  answer,  the 
Cossack  considered  himself  entitled  to  remain 
silent  for  the  whole  of  the  rest  of  the  journey. 

The  philosopher  would  gladly  have  found  out 
who  the  colonel  was,  and  what  sort  of  a  character 
he  had.  He  was  also  curious  to  know  about  his 
daughter,  who  had  returned  home  in  such  a 
strange  way  and  now  lay  dying,  and  whose 
destiny  seemed  to  be  mingled  with  his  own; 
and  wanted  to  know  the  sort  of  life  that  was 
lived  in  the  colonel's  house.  But  the  Cossacks 
were  probably  philosophers  like  himself,  for  in 
answer  to  his  inquiries  they  only  blew  clouds  of 
tobacco  and  settled  themselves  more  comfortably 
on  their  sacks. 

Meanwhile,  one  of  them  addressed  to  the 
coachman  on  the  box  a  brief  command  :  ' '  Keep 
your  eyes  open,  Overko,  you  old  sleepy-head,  and 
when  you  come  to  the  ale-house  on  the  road  to 
Tchukrailoff,  don't  forget  to  pull  up  and  wake  me 
and  the  other  fellows  if  we  are  asleep."     Then 


208  THE  VIY 

he  began  to  snore  pretty  loud.  But  in  any 
case  his  admonition  was  quite  superfluous;  for 
scarcely  had  the  enormous  equipage  begun  to 
approach  the  aforesaid  ale-house,  than  they  all 
cried  with  one  mouth  ' '  Halt !  Halt !  ' '  Besides 
this,  Overko's  horse  was  accustomed  to  stop  out- 
side every  inn  of  its  own  accord. 

In  spite  of  the  intense  July  heat,  they  all  got 
out  and  entered  a  low,  dirty  room  where  a  Jewish 
innkeeper  received  them  in  a  friendly  way  as  old 
acquaintances.  He  brought  in  the  skirt  of  his 
long  coat  some  sausages,  and  laid  them  on  the 
table,  where,  though  forbidden  by  the  Talmud, 
they  looked  very  seductive.  All  sat  down  at 
table,  and  it  was  not  long  before  each  of  the 
guests  had  an  earthenware  jug  standing  in  front 
of  him.  The  philosopher  Thomas  had  to  take 
part  in  the  feast,  and  as  the  Little  Eussians  when 
they  are  intoxicated  always  begin  to  kiss  each 
other  or  to  weep,  the  whole  room  soon  began  to 
echo  with  demonstrations  of  affection. 

"  Come  here,  come  here,  Spirid,  let  me 
embrace  thee!  " 

1 '  Come  here,  Dorosch,  let  me  press  you  to  my 
heart!" 

One  Cossack,  with  a  grey  moustache,  the 
eldest  of  them  all,  leant  his  head  on  his  hand 
and  began  to  weep  bitterly  because  he  was  an 
orphan  and  alone  in  God's  wide  world.  Another 
tall,  loquacious  man  did  his  best  to  comfort  him, 


THE  VIY  209 

saying,  "Don't  weep,  for  God's  sake,  don't 
weep  !    For  over  there — God  knows  best." 

The  Cossack  who  had  been  addressed  as 
Dorosch  was  full  of  curiosity,  and  addressed 
many  questions  to  the  philosopher  Thomas.  "I 
should  like  to  know,"  he  said,  "  what  you  learn 
in  your  seminary;  do  you  learn  the  same  things 
as  the  deacon  reads  to  us  in  church,  or  something 
else?" 

"Don't  ask,"  said  the  consoler;  "let  them 
learn  what  they  like.  God  knows  what  is  to 
happen;  God  knows  everything." 

"No,  I  will  know,"  answered  Dorosch,  "I 
will  know  what  is  written  in  their  books ;  perhaps 
it  is  something  quite  different  from  that  in  the 
deacon's  book." 

"  0  good  heavens  !  "  said  the  other,  "why  all 
this  talk?  It  is  God's  will,  and  one  cannot 
change  God's  arrangements." 

' '  But  I  will  know  everything  that  is  written ; 
I  will  enter  the  seminary  too,  by  heaven  I  will ! 
Do  you  think  perhaps  I  could  not  learn?  I  will 
learn  everything,  everything." 

"  Oh,  heavens!  "  exclaimed  the  consoler,  and 
let  his  head  sink  on  the  table,  for  he  could  no 
longer  hold  it  upright. 

The  other  Cossacks  talked  about  the  nobility, 
and  why  there  was  a  moon  in  the  sky. 

When  the  philosopher  Thomas  saw  the  state 
they  were  in,  he  determined  to  profit  by  it,  and 

o 


210  THE  VIY 

to  make  his  escape.  In  the  first  place  he  turned 
to  the  grey-headed  Cossack,  who  was  lamenting 
the  loss  of  his  parents.  "  But,  little  uncle,"  he 
said  to  him,  * '  why  do  you  weep  so  ?  I  too  am 
an  orphan!  Let  me  go,  children;  why  do  you 
want  me?" 

"  Let  him  go!  "  said  some  of  them,  "he  is 
an  orphan,  let  him  go  where  he  likes." 

They  were  about  to  take  him  outside  them- 
selves, when  the  one  who  had  displayed  a  special 
thirst  for  knowledge,  stopped  them,  saying,  "  No, 
I  want  to  talk  with  him  about  the  seminary ;  I  am 
going  to  the  seminary  myself." 

Moreover,  it  was  not  yet  certain  whether  the 
philosopher  could  have  executed  his  project  of 
flight,  for  when  he  tried  to  rise  from  his  chair, 
he  felt  as  though  his  feet  were  made  of  wood, 
and  he  began  to  see  such  a  number  of  doors  lead- 
ing out  of  the  room  that  it  would  have  been 
difficult  for  him  to  have  found  the  right  one. 

It  was  not  till  evening  that  the  company  re- 
membered that  they  must  continue  their  journey. 
They  crowded  into  the  kibitka,  whipped  up  the 
horses,  and  struck  up  a  song,  the  words  and  sense 
of  which  were  hard  to  understand.  During  a 
great  part  of  the  night,  they  wandered  about, 
having  lost  the  road  which  they  ought  to  have 
been  able  to  find  blindfolded.  At  last  they  drove 
down  a  steep  descent  into  a  valley,  and  the 
philosopher  noticed,  by  the  sides  of  the  road, 


THE  VIY  211 

hedges,  behind  which  he  caught  glimpses  of 
small  trees  and  house-roofs.  All  these  belonged 
to  the  colonel's  estate. 

It  was  already  long  past  midnight.  The  sky 
was  dark,  though  little  stars  glimmered  here 
and  there;  no  light  was  to  be  seen  in  any  of 
the  houses.  They  drove  into  a  large  court-yard, 
while  the  dogs  barked.  On  all  sides  were  barns 
and  cottages  with  thatched  roofs.  Just  opposite 
the  gateway  was  a  house,  which  was  larger  than 
the  others,  and  seemed  to  be  the  colonel's  dwell- 
ing. The  kibitka  stopped  before  a  small  barn, 
and  the  travellers  hastened  into  it  and  laid 
themselves  down  to  sleep.  The  philosopher  how- 
ever attempted  to  look  at  the  exterior  of  the 
house,  but,  rub  his  eyes  as  he  might,  he  could 
distinguish  nothing;  the  house  seemed  to  turn 
into  a  bear,  and  the  chimney  into  the  rector  of 
the  seminary.  Then  he  gave  it  up  and  lay  down 
to  sleep. 

When  he  woke  up  the  next  morning,  the  whole 
house  was  in  commotion;  the  young  lady  had 
died  during  the  night.  The  servants  ran  hither 
and  thither  in  a  distracted  state;  the  old  women 
wept  and  lamented;  and  a  number  of  curious 
people  gazed  through  the  enclosure  into  the 
court-yard,  as  though  there  were  something 
special  to  be  seen.  The  philosopher  began  now 
to  inspect  the  locality  and  the  buildings,  which 
he  had  not  been  able  to  do  during  the  night. 


212  THE  VIY 

The  colonel's  house  was  one  of  those  low, 
small  buildings,  such  as  used  formerly  to  be  con- 
structed in  Eussia.  It  was  thatched  with  straw; 
a  small,  high-peaked  gable,  with  a  window 
shaped  like  an  eye,  was  painted  all  over  with 
blue  and  yellow  flowers  and  red  crescent-moons ; 
it  rested  on  little  oaken  pillars,  which  were  round 
above  the  middle,  hexagonal  below,  and  whose 
capitals  were  adorned  with  quaint  carvings. 
Under  this  gable  was  a  small  staircase  with  seats 
at  the  foot  of  it  on  either  side. 

The  walls  of  the  house  were  supported  by 
similar  pillars.  Before  the  house  stood  a  large 
pear-tree  of  pyramidal  shape,  whose  leaves  in- 
cessantly trembled.  A  double  row  of  buildings 
formed  a  broad  street  leading  up  to  the  colonel's 
house.  Behind  the  barns  near  the  entrance-gate 
stood  two  three-cornered  wine-houses,  also 
thatched  with  straw ;  each  of  the  stone  walls  had 
a  door  in  it,  and  was  covered  with  all  kinds  of 
paintings.  On  one  was  represented  a  Cossack 
sitting  on  a  barrel  and  swinging  a  large  pitcher 
over  his  head ;  it  bore  the  inscription  ' '  I  will 
drink  all  that!  M  Elsewhere  were  painted  large 
and  small  bottles,  a  beautiful  girl,  a  running 
horse,  a  pipe,  and  a  drum  bearing  the  words 
"  Wine  is  the  Cossack's  joy." 

In  the  loft  of  one  of  the  barns  one  saw  through 
a  huge  round  window  a  drum  and  some  trumpets. 
At  the  gate  there  stood  two  cannons.     All  this 


THE  VIY  213 

showed  that  the  colonel  loved  a  cheerful  life,  and 
the  whole  place  often  rang  with  sounds  of  merri- 
ment. Before  the  gate  were  two  windmills,  and 
behind  the  house  gardens  sloped  away;  through 
the  tree-tops  the  dark  chimneys  of  the  peasants' 
houses  were  visible.  The  whole  village  lay  on  a 
broad,  even  plateau,  in  the  middle  of  a  mountain- 
slope  which  culminated  in  a  steep  summit  on 
the  north  side.  When  seen  from  below,  it 
looked  still  steeper.  Here  and  there  on  the  top 
the  irregular  stems  of  the  thick  steppe-brooms 
showed  in  dark  relief  against  the  blue  sky.  The 
bare  clay  soil  made  a  melancholy  impression, 
worn  as  it  was  into  deep  furrows  by  rain-water. 
On  the  same  slope  there  stood  two  cottages,  and 
over  one  of  them  a  huge  apple-tree  spread  its 
branches;  the  roots  were  supported  by  small 
props,  whose  interstices  were  filled  with  mould. 
The  apples,  which  were  blown  off  by  the  wind, 
rolled  down  to  the  court-yard  below.  A  road 
wound  round  the  mountain  to  the  village. 

When  the  philosopher  looked  at  this  steep 
slope,  and  remembered  his  journey  of  the  night 
before,  he  came  to  the  conclusion  that  either  the 
colonel's  horses  were  very  sagacious,  or  that  the 
Cossacks  must  have  very  strong  heads,  as  they 
ventured,  even  when  the  worse  for  drink,  on 
such  a  road  with  the  huge  kibitka. 

When  the  philosopher  turned  and  looked  in 
the   opposite   direction,    he   saw   quite   another 


214  THE  VIY 

picture.  The  village  reached  down  to  the  plain; 
meadows  stretched  away  to  an  immense  distance, 
their  bright  green  growing  gradually  dark;  far 
away,  about  twenty  versts  off, 'many  other  vil- 
lages were  visible.  To  the  right  of  these  meadows 
were  chains  of  hills,  and  in  the  remote  distance 
one  saw  the  Dnieper  shimmer  and  sparkle  like  a 
mirror  of  steel. 

''What  a  splendid  country !  "  said  the 
philosopher  to  himself.  "  It  must  be  fine  to  live 
here !  One  could  catch  fish  in  the  Dnieper,  and 
in  the  ponds,  and  shoot  and  snare  partridges  and 
bustards;  there  must  be  quantities  here.  Much 
fruit  might  be  dried  here  and  sold  in  the  town, 
or,  better  still,  brandy  might  be  distilled  from  it, 
for  fruit-brandy  is  the  best  of  all.  But  what  pre- 
vents me  thinking  of  my  escape  after  all?  u 

Behind  the  hedge  he  saw  a  little  path  which 
was  almost  entirely  concealed  by  the  high  grass 
of  the  steppe.  The  philosopher  approached  it 
mechanically,  meaning  at  first  to  walk  a  little 
along  it  unobserved,  and  then  quite  quietly  to 
gain  the  open  country  behind  the  peasants' 
houses.  Suddenly  he  felt  the  pressure  of  a  fairly 
heavy  hand  on  his  shoulder. 

Behind  him  stood  the  same  old  Cossack  who 
yesterday  had  so  bitterly  lamented  the  death  of 
his  father  and  mother,  and  his  own  loneliness. 
' '  You  are  giving  yourself  useless  trouble,  Mr 
Philosopher,  if  you  think  you  can  escape  from 


THE  VIY  215 

us,"  he  said.  "  One  cannot  run  away  here;  and 
besides,  the  roads  are  too  bad  for  walkers.  Come 
to  the  colonel;  he  has  been  waiting  for  you  for 
some  time  in  his  room." 

"Yes,  of  course!  What  are  you  talking 
about?  I  will  come  with  the  greatest  pleasure," 
said  the  philosopher,  and  followed  the  Cossack. 

The  colonel  was  an  elderly  man ;  his  moustache 
was  grey,  and  his  face  wore  the  signs  of  deep  sad- 
ness. He  sat  in  his  room  by  a  table,  with  his 
head  propped  on  both  hands.  He  seemed  about 
five-and-fifty,  but  his  attitude  of  utter  despair, 
and  the  pallor  on  his  face,  showed  that  his  heart 
had  been  suddenly  broken,  and  that  all  his  former 
cheerfulness  had  for  ever  disappeared. 

When  Thomas  entered  with  the  Cossack,  he 
answered  their  deep  bows  with  a  slight  inclina- 
tion of  the  head. 

"Who  are  you,  whence  do  you  come,  and 
what  is  your  profession,  my  good  man?  "  asked 
the  colonel  in  an  even  voice,  neither  friendly  nor 
austere. 

"lama  student  of  philosophy ;  my  name  is 
Thomas  Brutus." 

' '  And  who  was  your  father  ?  ' ' 

"I  don't  know,  sir." 

■  ■  And  your  mother  ?  ' ' 

"  I  don't  know  either ;  I  know  that  I  must  have 
had  a  mother,  but  who  she  was,  and  where  she 
lived,  by  heavens,  I  do  not  know." 


216  THE  VIY 

The  colonel  was  silent,  and  seemed  for  a 
moment  lost  in  thought.  "  Where  did  you  come 
to  know  my  daughter  ?  ' ' 

' '  I  do  not  know  her,  gracious  sir ;  I  declare  I 
do  not  know  her." 

Why  then  has  she  chosen  you,  and  no  one 
else,  to  offer  up  prayers  for  her?  *' 

The  philosopher  shrugged  his  shoulders. 
"  God  only  knows.  It  is  a  well-known  fact  that 
grand  people  often  demand  things  which  the 
most  learned  man  cannot  comprehend ;  and  does 
not  the  proverb  say,  '  Dance,  devil,  as  the  Lord 
commands! '  " 

"Aren't  you  talking  nonsense,  Mr  Philos- 
opher? M 

1  *  May  the  lightning  strike  me  on  the  spot  if 
I  lie." 

"  If  she  had  only  lived  a  moment  longer," 
said  the  colonel  sadly,  ' '  then  I  had  certainly 
found  out  everything.  She  said,  '  Let  no  one 
offer  up  prayers  for  me,  but  send,  father,  at  once 
to  the  seminary  in  Kieff  for  the  student  Thomas 
Brutus;  he  shall  pray  three  nights  running  for 
my  sinful  soul — he  knows.'  But  what  he  really 
knows  she  never  said.  The  poor  dove  could 
speak  no  more,  and  died.  Good  man,  you  are 
probably  well  known  for  your  sanctity  and 
devout  life,  and  she  has  perhaps  heard  of  you." 

"  What?  Of  me?"  said  the  philosopher,  and 
took  a  step  backward  in  amazement.     "  I  and 


THE  VIY  217 

sanctity!"  he  exclaimed,  and  stared  at  the 
colonel.  "God  help  us,  gracious  sir!  What 
are  you  saying?  It  was  only  last  Holy  Thursday 
that  I  paid  a  visit  to  the  tart-shop." 

■  Well,  she  must  at  any  rate  have  had  some 
reason  for  making  the  arrangement,  and  you 
must  begin  your  duties  to-day." 

:'  I  should  like  to  remark  to  your  honour — 
naturally  everyone  who  knows  the  Holy  Scripture 
at  all  can  in  his  measure — but  I  believe  it  would 
be  better  on  this  occasion  to  send  for  a  deacon 
or  subdeacon.  They  are  learned  people,  and 
they  know  exactly  what  is  to  be  done.  I  have 
not  got  a  good  voice,  nor  any  official  standing." 
1  You  may  say  what  you  like,  but  I  shall  carry 
out  all  my  dove's  wishes.  If  you  read  the  prayers 
for  her  three  nights  through  in  the  proper  way,  I 
will  reward  you;  and  if  not — I  advise  the  devil 
himself  not  to  oppose  me!" 

The  colonel  spoke  the  last  words  in  such  an 
emphatic  way  that  the  philosopher  quite  under- 
stood them. 

"Follow  me!"  said  the  colonel. 

They  went  into  the  hall.  The  colonel  opened 
a  door  which  was  opposite  his  own.  The 
philosopher  remained  for  a  few  minutes  in  the 
hall  in  order  to  look  about  him ;  then  he  stepped 
over  the  threshold  with  a  certain  nervousness. 

The  whole  floor  of  the  room  was  covered  with 
red  cloth.     In  a  corner  under  the  icons  of  the 


218  THE  VIY 

saints,  on  a  table  covered  with  a  gold-bordered, 
velvet  cloth,  lay  the  body  of  the  girl.  Tall 
candles,  round  which  were  wound  branches  of 
the  "  calina,"  stood  at  her  head  and  feet,  and 
burned  dimly  in  the  broad  daylight.  The  face 
of  the  dead  was  not  to  be  seen,  as  the  incon- 
solable father  sat  before  his  daughter,  with  his 
back  turned  to  the  philosopher.  The  words 
which  the  latter  overheard  filled  him  with  a 
certain  fear  : 

* '  I  do  not  mourn,  my  daughter,  that  in  the 
flower  of  your  age  you  have  prematurely  left  the 
earth,  to  my  grief;  but  I  mourn,  my  dove,  that 
I  do  not  know  my  deadly  enemy  who  caused  your 
death.  Had  I  only  known  that  anyone  could 
even  conceive  the  idea  of  insulting  you,  or  of 
speaking  a  disrespectful  word  to  you,  I  swear  by 
heaven  he  would  never  have  seen  his  children 
again,  if  he  had  been  as  old  as  myself;  nor  his 
father  and  mother,  if  he  had  been  young.  And  I 
would  have  thrown  his  corpse  to  the  birds  of  the 
air,  and  the  wild  beasts  of  the  steppe.  But  woe 
is  me,  my  flower,  my  dove,  my  light !  I  will  spend 
the  remainder  of  my  life  without  joy,  and  wipe 
the  bitter  tears  which  flow  out  of  my  old  eyes, 
while  my  enemy  will  rejoice  and  laugh  in  secret 
over  the  helpless  old  man ! 5 ' 

He  paused,  overpowered  by  grief,  and  streams 
of  tears  flowed  down  his  cheeks. 

The  philosopher  was  deeply  affected  by  the 


THE  VIY  219 

sight  of  such  inconsolable  sorrow.  He  coughed 
gently  in  order  to  clear  his  throat.  The  colonel 
turned  and  signed  to  him  to  take  his  place  at  the 
head  of  the  dead  girl,  before  a  little  prayer-desk 
on  which  some  books  lay. 

"  I  can  manage  to  hold  out  for  three  nights," 
thought  the  philosopher ;  ' •  and  then  the  colonel 
will  fill  both  my  pockets  with  ducats." 

He  approached  the  dead  girl,  and  after  cough- 
ing once  more,  began  to  read,  without  paying 
attention  to  anything  else,  and  firmly  resolved 
not  to  look  at  her  face. 

Soon  there  was  deep  silence,  and  he  saw  that 
the  colonel  had  left  the  room.  Slowly  he  turned 
his  head  in  order  to  look  at  the  corpse.  A 
violent  shudder  thrilled  through  him ;  before  him 
lay  a  form  of  such  beauty  as  is  seldom  seen 
upon  earth.  It  seemed  to  him  that  never  in  a 
single  face  had  so  much  intensity  of  expression 
and  harmony  of  feature  been  united.  Her  brow, 
soft  as  snow  and  pure  as  silver,  seemed  to  be 
thinking;  the  fine,  regular  eyebrows  shadowed 
proudly  the  closed  eyes,  whose  lashes  gently 
rested  on  her  cheeks,  which  seemed  to  glow  with 
secret  longing;  her  lips  still  appeared  to  smile. 
But  at  the  same  time  he  saw  something  in  these 
features  which  appalled  him;  a  terrible  depres- 
sion seized  his  heart,  as  when  in  the  midst  of 
dance  and  song  someone  begins  to  chant  a  dirge. 
He  felt  as  though  those  ruby  lips  were  coloured 


220  THE  VIY 

with  his  own  heart's  blood.     Moreover,  her  face 
seemed  dreadfully  familiar. 

The  witch ! ' '  he  cried  out  in  a  voice  which 
sounded  strange  to  himself ;  then  he  turned  away 
and  began  to  read  the  prayers  with  white  cheeks. 
It  was  the  witch  whom  he  had  killed. 

II 

When  the  sun  had  sunk  below  the  horizon, 
the  corpse  was  carried  into  the  church.  The 
philosopher  supported  one  corner  of  the  black- 
draped  coffin  upon  his  shoulder,  and  felt  an  ice- 
cold  shiver  run  through  his  body.  The  colonel 
walked  in  front  of  him,  with  his  right  hand 
resting  on  the  edge  of  the  coffin. 

The  wooden  church,  black  with  age  and 
overgrown  with  green  lichen,  stood  quite  at  the 
end  of  the  village  in  gloomy  solitude ;  it  was 
adorned  with  three  round  cupolas.  One  saw  at 
the  first  glance  that  it  had  not  been  used  for 
divine  worship  for  a  long  time. 

Lighted  candles  were  standing  before  almost 
every  icon.  The  coffin  was  set  down  before  the 
altar.  The  old  colonel  kissed  his  dead  daughter 
once  more,  and  then  left  the  church,  together 
with  the  bearers  of  the  bier,  after  he  had  ordered 
his  servants  to  look  after  the  philosopher  and  to 
take  him  back  to  the  church  after  supper. 

The  coffin-bearers,  when  they  returned  to  the 


THE  VIY  221 

house,  all  laid  their  hands  on  the  stove.  This 
custom  is  always  observed  in  Little  Eussia  by 
those  who  have  seen  a  corpse. 

The  hunger  which  the  philosopher  now  began 
to  feel  caused  him  for  a  while  to  forget  the  dead 
girl  altogether.  Gradually  all  the  domestics  of 
the  house  assembled  in  the  kitchen ;  it  was  really 
a  kind  of  club,  where  they  were  accustomed  to 
gather.  Even  the  dogs  came  to  the  door,  wag- 
ging their  tails  in  order  to  have  bones  and  offal 
thrown  to  them. 

If  a  servant  was  sent  on  an  errand,  he  always 
found  his  way  into  the  kitchen  to  rest  there  for 
a  while,  and  to  smoke  a  pipe.  All  the  Cossacks 
of  the  establishment  lay  here  during  the  whole 
day  on  and  under  the  benches — in  fact,  wherever 
a  place  could  be  found  to  lie  down  in.  More- 
over, everyone  was  always  leaving  something 
behind  in  the  kitchen — his  cap,  or  his  whip,  or 
something  of  the  sort.  But  the  numbers  of  the 
club  were  not  complete  till  the  evening,  when 
the  groom  came  in  after  tying  up  his  horses  in 
the  stable,  the  cowherd  had  shut  up  his  cows 
in  their  stalls,  and  others  collected  there  who 
were  not  usually  seen  in  the  day-time.  During 
supper-time  even  the  tongues  of  the  laziest  were 
set  in  motion.  They  talked  of  all  and  every- 
thing— of  the  new  pair  of  breeches  which  some- 
one had  ordered  for  himself,  of  what  might  be 
in  the  centre  of  the  earth,  and  of  the  wolf  which 


222  THE  VIY 

someone  had  seen.  There  were  a  number  of 
wits  in  the  company — a  class  which  is  always 
represented  in  Little  Eussia. 

The  philosopher  took  his  place  with  the  rest  in 
the  great  circle  which  sat  round  the  kitchen  door 
in  the  open-air.  Soon  an  old  woman  with  a  red 
cap  issued  from  it,  bearing  with  both  hands  a 
large  vessel  full  of  hot  "  galuchkis,"  which  she 
distributed  among  them.  Each  drew  out  of 
his  pocket  a  wooden  spoon,  or  a  one-pronged 
wooden  fork.  As  soon  as  their  jaws  began  to 
move  a  little  more  slowly,  and  their  wolfish 
hunger  was  somewhat  appeased,  they  began  to 
talk.  The  conversation,  as  might  be  expected, 
turned  on  the  dead  girl. 

"Is  it  true/'  said  a  young  shepherd,  "is  it 
true — though  I  cannot  understand  it — that  our 
young  mistress  had  traffic  with  evil  spirits  ?  ■ : 

"  Who,  the  young  lady?  "  answered  Dorosch, 
whose  acquaintance  the  philosopher  had  already 
made  in  the  kibitka.  "  Yes,  she  was  a  regular 
witch !     I  can  swear  that  she  was  a  witch !  ' 

"Hold  your  tongue,  Dorosch!"  exclaimed 
another — the  one  who,  during  the  journey,  had 
played  the  part  of  a  consoler.  "We  have 
nothing  to  do  with  that.  May  God  be  merciful 
to  her !     One  ought  not  to  talk  of  such  things.'' 

But  Dorosch  was  not  at  all  inclined  to  be 
silent;  he  had  just  visited  the  wine-cellar  with 
the  steward  on  important  business,  and  having 


THE  VIY  223 

stooped  two  or  three  times  over  one  or  two  casks, 
he  had  returned  in  a  very  cheerful  and  loquacious 
mood. 

"Why  do  you  ask  me  to  be  silent?"  he 
answered.  "  She  has  ridden  on  my  own  shoul- 
ders, I  swear  she  has." 

"Say,  uncle,"  asked  the  young  shepherd, 
1 '  are  there  signs  by  which  to  recognise  a 
sorceress?  " 

"No,  there  are  not,"  answered  Dorosch; 
"  even  if  you  knew  the  Psalter  by  heart,  you 
could  not  recognise  one." 

"  Yes,  Dorosch,  it  is  possible;  don't  talk  such 
nonsense,"  retorted  the  former  consoler.  "It 
is  not  for  nothing  that  God  has  given  each  some 
special  peculiarity;  the  learned  maintain  that 
every  witch  has  a  little  tail." 

"  Every  old  woman  is  a  witch,"  said  a  grey- 
headed Cossack  quite  seriously. 

"  Yes,  you  are  a  fine  lot,"  retorted  the  old 
woman  who  entered  at  that  moment  with  a  vessel 
full  of  fresh  "  galuchkis."  "  You  are  great  fat 
pigs!" 

A  self-satisfied  smile  played  round  the  lips  of 
the  old  Cossack  whose  name  was  Javtuch,  when 
he  found  that  his  remark  had  touched  the  old 
woman  on  a  tender  point.  The  shepherd  burst 
into  such  a  deep  and  loud  explosion  of  laughter 
as  if  two  oxen  were  lowing  together. 

This  conversation  excited  in  the  philosopher 


224  THE  VIY 

a  great  curiosity,  and  a  wish  to  obtain  more 
exact  information  regarding  the  colonel's 
daughter.  In  order  to  lead  the  talk  back  to  the 
subject,  he  turned  to  his  next  neighbour  and 
said,  ' '  I  should  like  to  know  why  all  the  people 
here  think  that  the  young  lady  was  a  witch. 
Has  she  done  harm  to  anyone,  or  killed  them  by 
witchcraft?  rj 

"Yes,  there  are  reports  of  that  kind," 
answered  a  man,  whose  face  was  as  flat  as  a 
shovel.  "  Who  does  not  remember  the  hunts- 
man Mikita,  or  the M 

' '  What  has  the  huntsman  Mikita  got  to  do 
with  it?"  asked  the  philosopher. 

"Stop;  I  will  tell  you  the  story  of  Mikita," 
interrupted  Dorosch. 

"  No,  I  will  tell  it,"  said  the  groom,  "  for  he 
was  my  godfather." 

"  I  will  tell  the  story  of  Mikita,"  said  Spirid. 

"  Yes,  yes,  Spirid  shall  tell  it,"  exclaimed  the 
whole  company;  and  Spirid  began. 

14  You,  Mr  Philosopher  Thomas,  did  not  know 
Mikita.  Ah!  he  was  an  extraordinary  man. 
He  knew  every  dog  as  though  he  were  his  own 
father.  The  present  huntsman,  Mikola,  who  sits 
three  places  away  from  me,  is  not  fit  to  hold  a 
candle  to  him,  though  good  enough  in  his  way; 
but  compared  to  Mikita,  he  is  a  mere  milksop." 

"You  tell  the  tale  splendidly,"  exclaimed 
Dorosch,  and  nodded  as  a  sign  of  approval. 


THE  VIY  225 

Spirid  continued. 

1 1  He  saw  a  hare  in  the  field  quicker  than 
you  can  take  a  pinch  of  snuff.  He  only  needed 
to  whistle  '  Come  here,  Easboy !  Come  here, 
Bosdraja ! '  and  flew  away  on  his  horse  like  the 
wind,  so  that  you  could  not  say  whether  he  went 
quicker  than  the  dog  or  the  dog  than  he.  He 
could  empty  a  quart  pot  of  brandy  in  the  twink- 
ling of  an  eye.  Ah!  he  was  a  splendid  hunts- 
man, only  for  some  time  he  always  had  his  eyes 
fixed  on  the  young  lady.  Either  he  had  fallen 
in  love  with  her  or  she  had  bewitched  him — in 
short,  he  went  to  the  dogs.  He  became  a  regular 
old  woman ;  yes,  he  became  the  devil  knows  what 
— it  is  not  fitting  to  relate  it." 

"  Very  good,"  remarked  Dorosch. 

"  If  the  young  lady  only  looked  at  him,  he  let 
the  reins  slip  out  of  his  hands,  called  Bravko 
instead  of  Easboy,  stumbled,  and  made  all  kinds 
of  mistakes.  One  day  when  he  was  currycomb- 
ing  a  horse,  the  young  lady  came  to  him  in  the 
stable.  'Listen,  Mikita,'  she  said.  -^1  should 
like  for  once  to  set  my  foot  on  you.'  And  he, 
the  booby,  was  quite  delighted,  and  answered, 
'  Don't  only  set  your  foot  there,  but  sit  on  me 
altogether.'  The  young  lady  lifted  her  white 
little  foot,  and  as  soon  as  he  saw  it,  his  delight 
robbed  him  of  his  senses.  He  bowed  his  neck, 
the  idiot,  took  her  feet  in  both  hands,  and  began 
to  trot  about  like  a  horse  all  over  the  place. 

p 


226  THE  VIY 

Whither  they  went  he  could  not  say ;  he  returned 
more  dead  than  alive,  and  from  that  time  he 
wasted  away  and  became  as  dry  as  a  chip  of 
wood.  At  last  someone  coming  into  the  stable 
one  day  found  instead  of  him  only  a  handful 
of  ashes  and  an  empty  jug;  he  had  burned 
completely  out.  But  it  must  be  said  he 
was  a  huntsman  such  as  the  world  cannot 
match.' ' 

When  Spirid  had  ended  his  tale,  they  all  began 
to  vie  with  one  another  in  praising  the  deceased 
huntsman. 

'  *  And  have  you  heard  the  story  of  Chept- 
chicha?  M  asked  Dorosch,  turning  to  Thomas. 

"No." 

"Ha!  Ha!  One  sees  they  don't  teach  you 
much  in  your  seminary.  Well,  listen.  We 
have  here  in  our  village  a  Cossack  called  Chep- 
toun,  a  fine  fellow.  Sometimes  indeed  he 
amuses  himself  by  stealing  and  lying  without  any 
reason;  but  he  is  a  fine  fellow  for  all  that.  His 
house  is  not  far  away  from  here.  One  evening, 
just  about  this  time,  Cheptoun  and  his  wife  went 
to  bed  after  they  had  finished  their  day's  work. 
Since  it  was  fine  weather,  Cheptchicha  went  to 
sleep  in  the  court-yard,  and  Cheptoun  in  the 
house — no!  I  mean  Cheptchicha  went  to  sleep 
in  the  house  on  a  bench  and  Cheptoun  out- 
side  " 

"No,  Cheptchicha  didn't  go  to  sleep  on  a 


THE  VIY  227 

bench,  but  on  the  ground,"  interrupted  the  old 
woman  who  stood  at  the  door. 

Dorosch  looked  at  her,  then  at  the  ground, 
then  again  at  her,  and  said  after  a  pause,  "  If  I 
tore  your  dress  off  your  back  before  all  these 
people,  it  wouldn't  look  pretty." 

The  rebuke  was  effectual.  The  old  woman 
was  silent,  and  did  not  interrupt  again. 

Dorosch  continued. 

'  ■  In  the  cradle  which  hung  in  the  middle  of  the 
room  lay  a  one-year-old  child.  I  do  not  know 
whether  it  was  a  boy  or  a  girl.  Cheptchicha  had 
lain  down,  and  heard  on  the  other  side  of  the 
door  a  dog  scratching  and  howling  loud  enough 
to  frighten  anyone.  She  was  afraid,  for  women 
are  such  simple  folk  that  if  one  puts  out  one's 
tongue  at  them  behind  the  door  in  the  dark,  their 
hearts  sink  into  their  boots.  '  But/  she  thought 
to  herself,  '  I  must  give  this  cursed  dog  one  on 
the  snout  to  stop  his  howling!  ?  So  she  seized 
the  poker  and  opened  the  door.  But  hardly  had 
she  done  so  than  the  dog  rushed  between  her 
legs  straight  to  the  cradle.  Then  Cheptchicha 
saw  that  it  was  not  a  dog  but  the  young  lady; 
and  if  it  had  only  been  the  young  lady  as  she 
knew  her  it  wouldn't  have  mattered,  but  she 
looked  quite  blue,  and  her  eyes  sparkled  like  fiery 
coals.  She  seized  the  child,  bit  its  throat,  and 
began  to  suck  its  blood.  Cheptchicha  shrieked, 
*  Ah !  my  darling  child ! '  and  rushed  out  of  the 


228  THE  VIY 

room.  Then  she  saw  that  the  house-door  was 
shut  and  rushed  up  to  the  attic  and  sat  there,  the 
stupid  woman,  trembling  all  over.  Then  the 
young  lady  came  after  her  and  bit  her  too,  poor 
fool !  The  next  morning  Cheptoun  carried  his 
wife,  all  bitten  and  wounded,  down  from  the 
attic,  and  the  next  day  she  died.  Such  strange 
things  happen  in  the  world.  One  may  wear  fine 
clothes,  but  that  does  not  matter ;  a  witch  is  and 
remains  a  witch." 

After  telling  his  story,  Dorosch  looked  around 
him  with  a  complacent  air,  and  cleaned  out  his 
pipe  with  his  little  finger  in  order  to  fill  it  again. 
The  story  of  the  witch  had  made  a  deep  impres- 
sion on  all,  and  each  of  them  had  something  to 
say  about  her.  One  had  seen  her  come  to  the 
door  of  his  house  in  the  form  of  a  hayrick ;  from 
others  she  had  stolen  their  caps  or  their  pipes; 
she  had  cut  off  the  hair-plaits  of  many  girls  in 
the  village,  and  drunk  whole  pints  of  the  blood 
of  others. 

At  last  the  whole  company  observed  that  they 
had  gossiped  over  their  time,  for  it  was  already 
night.  All  looked  for  a  sleeping  place — some 
in  the  kitchen  and  others  in  the  barn  or  the 
court-yard. 

"Now,  Mr  Thomas,  it  is  time  that  we  go 
to  the  dead,"  said  the  grey-headed  Cossack, 
turning  to  the  philosopher.  All  four — Spirid, 
Dorosch,  the  old  Cossack,  and  the  philosopher — 


THE  VIY  229 

betook  themselves  to  the  church,  keeping  off  with 
their  whips  the  wild  dogs  who  roamed  about  the 
roads  in  great  numbers  and  bit  the  sticks  of 
passers-by  in  sheer  malice. 

Although  the  philosopher  had  seized  the  oppor- 
tunity of  fortifying  himself  beforehand  with  a 
stiff  glass  of  brandy,  yet  he  felt  a  certain  secret 
fear  which  increased  as  he  approached  the 
church,  which  was  lit  up  within.  The  strange 
tales  he  had  heard  had  made  a  deep  impression 
on  his  imagination.  They  had  passed  the  thick 
hedges  and  trees,  and  the  country  became  more 
open.  At  last  they  reached  the  small  enclosure 
round  the  church ;  behind  it  there  were  no  more 
trees,  but  a  huge,  empty  plain  dimly  visible  in 
the  darkness.  The  three  Cossacks  ascended  the 
steep  steps  with  Thomas,  and  entered  the  church. 
Here  they  left  the  philosopher,  expressing  their 
hope  that  he  would  successfully  accomplish  his 
duties,  and  locked  him  in  as  their  master  had 
ordered. 

He  was  left  alone.  At  first  he  yawned,  then 
he  stretched  himself,  blew  on  both  hands,  and 
finally  looked  round  him.  In  the  middle  of  the 
church  stood  the  black  bier;  before  the  dark 
pictures  of  saints  burned  the  candles,  whose 
light  only  illuminated  the  icons,  and  cast  a  faint 
glimmer  into  the  body  of  the  church;  all  the 
corners  were  in  complete  darkness.  The  lofty 
icons  seemed  to  be  of  considerable  age;  only  a 


230  THE  VIY 

little  of  the  original  gilt  remained  on  their  broken 
traceries;  the  faces  of  the  saints  had  become 
quite  black  and  looked  uncanny. 

Once  more  the  philosopher  cast  a  glance 
around  him.  "  Bother  it!  "  said  he  to  himself. 
"  What  is  there  to  be  afraid  about?  No  living 
creature  can  get  in,  and  as  for  the  dead  and 
those  who  come  from  the  'other  side/  I  can 
protect  myself  with  such  effectual  prayers  that 
they  cannot  touch  me  with  the  tips  of  their 
fingers.  There  is  nothing  to  fear,"  he  re- 
peated, swinging  his  arms.  "Let  us  begin  the 
prayers ! '■ ' 

As  he  approached  one  of  the  side-aisles,  he 
noticed  two  packets  of  candles  which  had  been 
placed  there. 

"  That  is  fine,"  he  thought.  "  I  must 
illuminate  the  whole  church,  till  it  is  as  bright 
as  day.  What  a  pity  that  one  cannot  smoke 
in  it." 

He  began  to  light  the  candles  on  all  the  wall- 
brackets  and  all  the  candelabra,  as  well  as  those 
already  burning  before  the  holy  pictures;  soon 
the  whole  church  was  brilliantly  lit  up.  Only 
the  darkness  in  the  roof  above  seemed  still 
denser  by  contrast,  and  the  faces  of  the  saints 
peering  out  of  the  frames  looked  as  unearthly  as 
before.  He  approached  the  bier,  looked  ner- 
vously at  the  face  of  the  dead  girl,  could  not 
help  shuddering  slightly,  and  involuntarily  closed 


THE  VIY  231 

his    eyes.     What    terrible    and    extraordinary 
beauty ! 

He  turned  away  and  tried  to  go  to  one  side, 
but  the  strange  curiosity  and  peculiar  fascination 
which  men  feel  in  moments  of  fear,  compelled 
him  to  look  again  and  again,  though  with  a 
similar  shudder.  And  in  truth  there  was  some- 
thing terrible  about  the  beauty  of  the  dead  girl. 
Perhaps  she  would  not  have  inspired  so  much 
fear  had  she  been  less  beautiful;  but  there  was 
nothing  ghastly  or  deathlike  in  the  face,  which 
wore  rather  an  expression  of  life,  and  it  seemed 
to  the  philosopher  as  though  she  were  watching 
him  from  under  her  closed  eyelids.  He  even 
thought  he  saw  a  tear  roll  from  under  the  eye- 
lash of  her  right  eye,  but  when  it  was  half- 
way down  her  cheek,  he  saw  that  it  was  a  drop 
of  blood. 

He  quickly  went  into  one  of  the  stalls,  opened 
his  book,  and  began  to  read  the  prayers  in  a  very 
loud  voice  in  order  to  keep  up  his  courage.  His 
deep  voice  sounded  strange  to  himself  in  the 
grave-like  silence;  it  aroused  no  echo  in  the 
silent  and  desolate  wooden  walls  of  the  church. 

"  What  is  there  to  be  afraid  of?  "  he  thought 
to  himself.  "  She  will  not  rise  from  her  bier, 
since  she  fears  God's  word.  She  will  remain 
quietly  resting.  Yes,  and  what  sort  of  a  Cossack 
should  I  be,  if  I  were  afraid?  The  fact  is,  I 
have  drunk  a  little  too  much — that  is  why  I  feel 


232  THE  VIY 

so  queer.     Let  me  take  a  pinch  of  snuff.     It  is 
really  excellent — first-rate!" 

At  the  same  time  he  cast  a  furtive  glance  over 
the  pages  of  the  prayer-book  towards  the  bier, 
and  involuntarily  he  said  to  himself,  "  There! 
See !  She  is  getting  up !  Her  head  is  already 
above  the  edge  of  the  coffin !  " 

But  a  death-like  silence  prevailed;  the  coffin 
was  motionless,  and  all  the  candles  shone 
steadily.  It  was  an  awe-inspiring  sight,  this 
church  lit  up  at  midnight,  with  the  corpse  in  the 
midst,  and  no  living  soul  near  but  one.  The 
philosopher  began  to  sing  in  various  keys  in 
order  to  stifle  his  fears,  but  every  moment  he 
glanced  across  at  the  coffin,  and  involuntarily  the 
question  came  to  his  lips,  ' '  Suppose  she  rose  up 
after  all?" 

But  the  coffin  did  not  move.  Nowhere  was 
there  the  slightest  sound  nor  stir.  Not  even 
did  a  cricket  chirp  in  any  corner.  There  was 
nothing  audible  but  the  slight  sputtering  of 
some  distant  candle,  or  the  faint  fall  of  a  drop 
of  wax. 

"  Suppose  she  rose  up  after  all?" 

He  raised  his  head.  Then  he  looked  round 
him  wildly  and  rubbed  his  eyes.  Yes,  she  was 
no  longer  lying  in  the  coffin,  but  sitting  upright. 
He  turned  away  his  eyes,  but  at  once  looked 
again,  terrified,  at  the  coffin.  She  stood  up; 
then  she  walked  with  closed  eyes  through  the 


THE  VIY  233 

church,  stretching  out  her  arms  as  though  she 
wanted  to  seize  someone. 

She  now  came  straight  towards  him.  Full  of 
alarm,  he  traced  with  his  finger  a  circle  round 
himself ;  then  in  a  loud  voice  he  began  to  recite 
the  prayers  and  formulas  of  exorcism  which  he 
had  learnt  from  a  monk  who  had  often  seen 
witches  and  evil  spirits. 

She  had  almost  reached  the  edge  of  the  circle 
which  he  had  traced ;  but  it  was  evident  that  she 
had  not  the  power  to  enter  it.  Her  face  wore  a 
bluish  tint  like  that  of  one  who  has  been  several 
days  dead. 

Thomas  had  not  the  courage  to  look  at  her,  so 
terrible  was  her  appearance ;  her  teeth  chattered 
and  she  opened  her  dead  eyes,  but  as  in  her  rage 
she  saw  nothing,  she  turned  in  another  direction 
and  felt  with  outstretched  arms  among  the  pillars 
and  corners  of  the  church  in  the  hope  of  seizing 
him. 

At  last  she  stood  still,  made  a  threatening 
gesture,  and  then  lay  down  again  in  the  coffin. 

The  philosopher  could  not  recover  his  self- 
possession,  and  kept  on  gazing  anxiously  at  it. 
Suddenly  it  rose  from  its  place  and  began  hurt- 
ling about  the  church  with  a  whizzing  sound. 
At  one  time  it  was  almost  directly  over  his  head ; 
but  the  philosopher  observed  that  it  could  not 
pass  over  the  area  of  his  charmed  circle,  so  he 
kept  on  repeating  his  formulas  of  exorcism.     The 


234  THE  VIY 

coffin  now  fell  with  a  crash  in  the  middle  of  the 
church,  and  remained  lying  there  motionless. 
The  corpse  rose  again ;  it  had  now  a  greenish-blue 
colour,  but  at  the  same  moment  the  distant 
crowing  of  a  cock  was  audible,  and  it  lay  down 
again. 

The  philosopher's  heart  beat  violently,  and  the 
perspiration  poured  in  streams  from  his  face; 
but  heartened  by  the  crowing  of  the  cock,  he 
rapidly  repeated  the  prayers. 

As  the  first  light  of  dawn  looked  through  the 
windows,  there  came  a  deacon  and  the  grey- 
haired  Javtuk,  who  acted  as  sacristan,  in  order 
to  release  him.  When  he  had  reached  the 
house,  he  could  not  sleep  for  a  long  time;  but  at 
last  weariness  overpowered  him,  and  he  slept  till 
noon.  When  he  awoke,  his  experiences  of  the 
night  appeared  to  him  like  a  dream.  He  was 
given  a  quart  of  brandy  to  strengthen  him.  ; 

At  table  he  was  again  talkative  and  ate  a  fairly 
large  sucking  pig  almost  without  assistance. 
But  none  the  less  he  resolved  to  say  nothing  of 
what  he  had  seen,  and  to  all  curious  questions 
only  returned  the  answer,  '  *  Yes,  some  wonder- 
ful things  happened." 

The  philosopher  was  one  of  those  men  who, 
when  they  have  had  a  good  meal,  are  uncom- 
monly amiable.  He  lay  down  on  a  bench,  with 
his  pipe  in  his  mouth,  looked  blandly  at  all,  and 
expectorated  every  minute. 


THE  VIY  235 

But  as  the  evening  approached,  he  became 
more  and  more  pensive.  About  supper-time 
nearly  the  whole  company  had  assembled  in  order 
to  play  "krapli."  This  is  a  kind  of  game  of 
skittles,  in  which,  instead  of  bowls,  long  staves 
are  used,  and  the  winner  has  the  right  to  ride  on 
the  back  of  his  opponent.  It  provided  the  spec- 
tators with  much  amusement;  sometimes  the 
groom,  a  huge  man,  would  clamber  on  the  back 
of  the  swineherd,  who  was  slim  and  short 
and  shrunken;  another  time  the  groom  would 
present  his  own  back,  while  Dorosch  sprang  on 
it  shouting,  "  What  a  regular  ox!"  Those 
of  the  company  who  were  more  staid  sat  by  the 
threshold  of  the  kitchen.  They  looked  uncom- 
monly serious,  smoked  their  pipes,  and  did  not 
even  smile  when  the  younger  ones  went  into  fits 
of  laughter  over  some  joke  of  the  groom  or 
Spirid. 

Thomas  vainly  attempted  to  take  part  in  the 
game;  a  gloomy  thought  was  firmly  fixed  like  a 
nail  in  his  head.  In  spite  of  his  desperate  efforts 
to  appear  cheerful  after  supper,  fear  had  over- 
mastered his  whole  being,  and  it  increased  with 
the  growing  darkness. 

"  Now  it  is  time  for  us  to  go,  Mr  Student !  M 
said  the  grey-haired  Cossack,  and  stood  up  with 
Dorosch.  "Let  us  betake  ourselves  to  our 
work." 

Thomas  was  conducted  to  the  church  in  the 


236  THE  VIY 

same  way  as  on  the  previous  evening;  again  he 
was  left  alone,  and  the  door  was  bolted  behind 
him. 

As  soon  as  he  found  himself  alone,  he  began 
to  feel  in  the  grip  of  his  fears.  He  again  saw 
the  dark  pictures  of  the  saints  in  their  gilt 
frames,  and  the  black  coffin,  which  stood  menac- 
ing and  silent  in  the  middle  of  the  church. 

M  Never  mind !  "  he  said  to  himself.  "lam 
over  the  first  shock.  The  first  time  I  was  fright- 
ened, but  I  am  not  so  at  all  now — no,  not  at 
all!  ^ 

He  quickly  went  into  a  stall,  drew  a  circle 
round  him  with  his  finger,  uttered  some  prayers 
and  formulas  for  exorcism,  and  then  began  to 
read  the  prayers  for  the  dead  in  a  loud  voice  and 
with  the  fixed  resolution  not  to  look  up  from  the 
book  nor  take  notice  of  anything. 

He  did  so  for  an  hour,  and  began  to  grow  a 
little  tired;  he  cleared  his  throat  and  drew  his 
snuff-box  out  of  his  pocket,  but  before  he  had 
taken  a  pinch  he  looked  nervously  towards  the 
coffin. 

A  sudden  chill  shot  through  him.  The  witch 
was  already  standing  before  him  on  the  edge  of 
the  circle,  and  had  fastened  her  green  eyes  upon 
him.  He  shuddered,  looked  down  at  the  book, 
and  began  to  read  his  prayers  and  exorcisms 
aloud.  Yet  all  the  while  he  was  aware  how  her 
teeth  chattered,  and  how  she  stretched  out  her 


THE  VIY  237 

arms  to  seize  him.  But  when  he  cast  a  hasty 
glance  towards  her,  he  saw  that  she  was  not 
looking  in  his  direction,  and  it  was  clear  that  she 
could  not  see  him. 

Then  she  began  to  murmur  in  an  undertone, 
and  terrible  words  escaped  her  lips — words  that 
sounded  like  the  bubbling  of  boiling  pitch.  The 
philosopher  did  not  know  their  meaning,  but  he 
knew  that  they  signified  something  terrible,  and 
were  intended  to  counteract  his  exorcisms. 

After  she  had  spoken,  a  stormy  wind  arose 
in  the  church,  and  there  was  a  noise  like  the 
rushing  of  many  birds.  He  heard  the  noise  of 
their  wings  and  claws  as  they  flapped  against  and 
scratched  at  the  iron  bars  of  the  church  windows. 
There  were  also  violent  blows  on  the  church 
door,  as  if  someone  were  trying  to  break  it  in 
pieces. 

The  philosopher's  heart  beat  violently;  he  did 
not  dare  to  look  up,  but  continued  to  read 
the  prayers  without  a  pause.  At  last  there  was 
heard  in  the  distance  the  shrill  sound  oFa  cock's 
crow.  The  exhausted  philosopher  stopped  and 
gave  a  great  sigh  of  relief. 

Those  who  came  to  release  him  found  him 
more  dead  than  alive;  he  had  leant  his  back 
against  the  wall,  and  stood  motionless,  regard- 
ing them  without  any  expression  in  his  eyes. 
They  were  obliged  almost  to  carry  him  to  the 
house;  he  then  shook  himself,   asked  for  and 


238  THE  VIY 

drank  a  quart  of  brandy.  He  passed  his  hand 
through  his  hair  and  said,  ' '  There  are  all  sorts 
of  horrors  in  the  world,  and  such  dreadful  things 

happen  that M     Here  he  made  a  gesture  as 

though  to  ward  off  something.  All  who  heard 
him  bent  their  heads  forward  in  curiosity. 
Even  a  small  boy,  who  ran  on  everyone's 
errands,  stood  by  with  his  mouth  wide  open. 

Just  then  a  young  woman  in  a  close-fitting 
dress  passed  by.  She  was  the  old  cook's  assis- 
tant, and  very  coquettish;  she  always  stuck 
something  in  her  bodice  by  way  of  ornament,  a 
ribbon  or  a  flower,  or  even  a  piece  of  paper  if 
she  could  find  nothing  else. 

"  Good  day,  Thomas,"  she  said,  as  she  saw 
the  philosopher.  "Dear  me!  what  has  hap- 
pened to  you?  "  she  exclaimed,  striking  her 
hands  together. 

* '  Well,  what  is  it,  you  silly  creature  ?  ' ' 

1 '  Good  heavens !  You  have  grown  quite 
grey!" 

"  Yes,  so  he  has  !  "  said  Spirid,  regarding  him 
more  closely.  "  You  have  grown  as  grey  as  our 
old  Javtuk.'* 

When  the  philosopher  heard  that,  he  hastened 
into  the  kitchen,  where  he  had  noticed  on  the  wall 
a  dirty,  three-cornered  piece  of  looking-glass. 
In  front  of  it  hung  some  forget-me-nots,  ever- 
greens, and  a  small  garland — a  proof  that  it  was 
the  toilette-glass  of  the  young  coquette.     With 


THE  VIY  239 

alarm  he  saw  that  it  actually  was  as  they  had 
said — his  hair  was  quite  grizzled. 

He  sank  into  a  reverie;  at  last  he  said  to 
himself,  "  I  will  go  to  the  colonel,  tell  him  all, 
and  declare  that  I  will  read  no  more  prayers. 
He  must  send  me  back  at  once  to  Kieff."  With 
this  intention  he  turned  towards  the  door-steps 
of  the  colonel's  house. 

The  colonel  was  sitting  motionless  in  his  room ; 
his  face  displayed  the  same  hopeless  grief  which 
Thomas  had  observed  on  it  on  his  first  arrival, 
only  the  hollows  in  his  cheeks  had  deepened.  It 
was  obvious  that  he  took  very  little  or  no  food. 
A  strange  paleness  made  him  look  almost  aa 
though  made  of  marble. 

"  Good  day,"  he  said  as  he  observed  Thomas 
standing,  cap  in  hand,  at  the  door.  "Well, 
how  are  you  getting  on  ?     All  right  ?  ' ' 

' '  Yes,  sir,  all  right !  Such  hellish  things  are 
going  on,  that  one  would  like  to  rush  away  as 
far  as  one's  feet  can  carry  one." 

"How  so?" 

"Your  daughter,  sir.  ,  ,  .  When  one  con- 
siders the  matter,  she  is,  of  course,  of  noble 
descent — no  one  can  dispute  that;  but  don't  be 
angry,  and  may  God  grant  her  eternal  rest!  " 

' '  Very  well !     What  about  her  ?  " 

"  She  is  in  league  with  the  devil.  She 
inspires  one  with  such  dread  that  all  prayers  are 
useless." 


240  THE  VIY 

"Pray !  Pray !  It  was  not  for  nothing  that 
she  sent  for  you.  My  dove  was  troubled  about 
her  salvation,  and  wished  to  expel  all  evil 
influences  by  means  of  prayer.' ■ 

"I  swear,  gracious  sir,  it  is  beyond  my 
power.' ' 

"  Pray !  Pray !  M  continued  the  colonel  in  the 
same  persuasive  tone.  "  There  is  only  one  night 
more;  you  are  doing  a  Christian  work,  and  I  will 
reward  you  richly." 

1 '  However  great  your  rewards  may  be,  I  will 
not  read  the  prayers  any  more,  sir/'  said 
Thomas  in  a  tone  of  decision. 

"Listen,  philosopher!  "  said  the  colonel  with 
a  menacing  air.  "I  will  not  allow  any  objec- 
tions. In  your  seminary  you  may  act  as  you 
like,  but  here  it  won't  do.  If  I  have  you 
knouted,  it  will  be  somewhat  different  to  the 
rector's  canings.  Do  you  know  what  a  strong 
'kantchuk'1  is?" 

"  Of  course  I  do,"  said  the  philosopher  in  a 
low  voice;  "a  number  of  them  together  are 
insupportable." 

-'  Yes,  I  think  so  too.  But  you  don't  know 
yet  how  hot  my  fellows  can  make  it,"  replied 
the  colonel  threateningly.  He  sprang  up,  and 
his  face  assumed  a  fierce,  despotic  expression, 
betraying  the  savagery  of  his  nature,  which 
had  been  only  temporarily  modified  by  grief. 
1  Small  scourge. 


THE  VIY  241 

M  After  the  first  flogging  they  pour  on  brandy 
and  then  repeat  it.  Go  away  and  finish  your 
work.  If  you  don't  obey,  you  won't  be  able 
to  stand  agairi,  and  if  you  do,  you  will  get  a 
thousand  ducats." 

"That  is  a  devil  of  a  fellow,"  thought  the 
philosopher  to  himself,  and  went  out.  "One 
can't  trifle  with  him.  But  wait  a  little,  my 
friend;  I  will  escape  you  so  cleverly,  that  even 
your  hounds  can't  find  me !  " 

He  determined,  under  any  circumstances,  to 
run  away,  and  only  waited  till  the  hour  after 
dinner  arrived,  when  all  the  servants  were  accus- 
tomed to  take  a  nap  on  the  hay  in  the  barn,  and 
to  snore  and  puff  so  loudly  that  it  sounded  as  if 
machinery  had  been  set  up  there.  At  last  the 
time  came.  Even  Javtuch  stretched  himself  out 
in  the  sun  and  closed  his  eyes.  Tremblingly, 
and  on  tiptoe,  the  philosopher  stole  softly  into 
the  garderi,  whence  he  thought  he  could  escape 
more  easily  into  the  open  country.  This  garden 
was  generally  so  choked  up  with  weeds  that  it 
seemed  admirably  adapted  for  such  an  attempt. 
With  the  exception  of  a  single  path  used  by  the 
people  of  the  house,  the  whole  of  it  was  covered 
with  cherry-trees,  elder-bushes,  and  tall  heath- 
thistles  with  fibrous  red  buds.  All  these  trees 
and  bushes  had  been  thickly  overgrown  with  ivy, 
which  formed  a  kind  of  roof.  Its  tendrils 
reached  to  the  hedge  and  fell  down  on  the  other; 

Q 


242  THE  VIY 

'side  in  snake-like  curves  among  the  small,  wild 
field-flowers.  Behind  the  hedge  which  bordered 
the  garden  was  a  dense  mass  of  wild  heather,  in 
which  it  did  not  seem  probable  that  anyone  would 
care  to  venture  himself,  and  the  strong,  stub- 
born stems  of  which  seemed  likely  to  baffle  any 
attempt  to  cut  them. 

As  the  philosopher  was  about  to  climb  over  tKe 
Hedge,  his  teeth  chattered,  and  his  Heart  beat 
60  violently  that  he  felt  frightened  at  it.  The 
skirts  of  his  long  cloak  seemed  to  cling  to  the 
ground  as  though  they  had  been  fastened  to  it 
by  pegs.  When  he  had  actually  got  over  the 
Hedge  He  seemed  to  hear  a  shrill  voice  crying 
behind  him  "  Whither?     Whither?  " 

He  jumped  into  the  heather  and  began  to  run, 
stumbling  over  old  roots  and  treading  on  unfor- 
tunate moles.  When  He  had  emerged  from  the 
heather  he  saw  tHat  He  still  had  a  wide  field  to 
cross,  behind  which  was  a  thick,  tKorny  under- 
wood. This,  according  to  his  calculation,  must 
stretcK  as  far  as  tKe  road  leading  to  Kieff,  and 
if  he  reached  it  He  would  He  safe.  Accordingly 
He  ran  over  the  field  and  plunged  into  tKe  tKorny 
copse.  Every  sharp  thorn  he  encountered  tore 
8  fragment  from  His  coat.  Then  He  reached  a 
small  open  space;  in  the  centre  of  it  stood  a 
willow,  whose  branches  hung  down  to  tKe  earth, 
and  close  by  flowed  a  clear  spring  bright  as 
silver.     The  first  thing  the  philosopher  did  was 


THE  VIY  243 

to  lie  down  and  drink  eagerly,  for  he  was  intoler- 
ably thirsty. 

"Splendid  water!"  he  said,  wiping  his 
mouth.     "  This  is  a  good  place  to  rest  in." 

1  *  No,  better  run  farther ;  perhaps  we  are 
being  followed,"  said  a  voice  immediately  behind 
him. 

Thomas  started  and  turned;  before  him  stood 
Javtuch. 

"  This  devil  of  a  Javtuch !  "  he  thought.  "  I 
should  like  to  seize  him  by  the  feet  and  smash 
his  hang-dog  face  against  the  trunk  of  a  tree." 

M  Why  did  you  go  round  such  a  long  way?" 
continued  Javtuch.  "You  had  much  better 
have  chosen  the  path  by  which  I  came ;  it  leads 
directly  by  the  stable.  Besides,  it  is  a  pity  about 
your  coat.  Such  splendid  cloth!  How  much 
did  it  cost  an  ell?  Well,  we  have  had  a  long 
enough  walk;  it  is  time  to  go  home." 

The  philosopher  followed  Javtuch  in  a  very 
depressed  state. 

M  Now  the  accursed  witch  will  attack  me  in 
earnest,"  he  thought.  "  But  what  have  I  really 
to  fear?  Am  I  not  a  Cossack ?  I  have  read  the 
prayers  for  two  nights  already;  with  God's  help 
I  will  get  through  the  third  night  also.  It  is  plain 
that  the  witch  must  have  a  terrible  load  of  guilt 
upon  her,  else  the  evil  one  would  not  help  her 
so  much." 

Feeling  somewhat  encouraged  by  these  reflec- 


244  THE  VIY 

tion§,  he  returned  to  the  court-yard  and  asked 
D'orosch,  who  sometimes,  by  the  steward's  per- 
mission, had  access  to  the  wine-cellar,  to  fetch! 
him  a  small  bottle  of  brandy.  The  two  friends 
sat  down  before  a  barn  and  drank  a  pretty 
large  one.  Suddenly  the  philosopher  jumped 
up  and  said,  "I  want  musicians!  Bring  some 
musicians ! v 

But  without  waiting  for  them  he  began  to 
dance  the  "  tropak  M  in  the  court-yard.  He 
danced  till  tea-time,  and  the  servants,  who,  as  is 
usual  in  such  cases,  had  formed  a  small  circle 
round  him,  grew  at  last  tired  of  watching  him, 
and  went  away  saying,  "By  heavens,  the  man 
can  daEce! " 

Finally  the  philosopher  lay  down  in  the  place 
where  he  had  been  dancing,  and  fell  asleep. 
It  was  necessary  to  pour  a  bucket  of  cold  water 
on  his  head  to  wake  him  up  for  supper.  At  the 
meal  he  enlarged  on  the  topic  of  what  a  Cossack 
ought  to  be,  and  how  he  should  not  be  afraid  of 
anything  in  the  world. 

"  It  is  time,"  said  Javtuch;  '"  let  us  go." 

'"  I  wish  I  could  put  a  lighted  match  to  your 
tongue,"  thought  the  philosopher;  then  he  stood 
up  and  said,  w*  Let  us  go." 

On  their  way  to  the  church,  the  philosopher 
kept  looking  round  him  on  all  sides,  and  tried  to 
start  a  conversation  with  his  companions;  but 
bptH  Javtuch  and  Dorosch  remained  silent.    It 


THE  VIY  245 

was  a  weird  night.  In  the  distance  wolves 
howled  continually,  and  even  the  barking  of  the 
dogs  had  something  unearthly  about  it. 

:'  That  doesn't  sound  like  wolves  howling,  but 
something  else,"  remarked  Dorosch. 

Javtuch  still  kept  silence,  and  the  philosopher 
did  not  know  what  answer  to  make. 

They  reached  the  church  and  walked  over 
the  old  wooden  planks,  whose  rotten  condition 
showed  how  little  the  lord  of  the  manor  cared 
about  God  and  his  soul.  Javtuch  and  Dorosch 
left  the  philosopher  alone,  as  on  the  previous 
evenings. 

There  was  still  the  same  atmosphere  of  men- 
acing silence  in  the  church,  in  the  centre  of  which 
stood  the  coffin  with  the  terrible  witch  inside  it. 

' !  I  am  not  afraid,  by  heavens,  I  am  not 
afraid  !  "  he  said;  and  after  drawing  a  circle 
round  himself  as  before,  he  began  to  read  the 
prayers  and  exorcisms. 

An  oppressive  silence  prevailed ;  the  flickering 
candles  filled  the  church  with  their  clear  light. 
The  philosopher  turned  one  page  after  another, 
and  noticed  that  he  was  not  reading  what  was  in 
the  book.  Full  of  alarm,  he  crossed  himself  and 
began  to  sing  a  hymn.  This  calmed  him  some- 
what, and  he  resumed  his  reading,  turning  the 
pages  rapidly  as  he  did  so. 

Suddenly  in  the  midst  of  the  sepulchral  silence 
the  iron  lid  of  the  coffin  sprang  open  with  a 


246  THE  VIY 

jarring  noise,  and  the  dead  witch  stood  up.  She 
.was  this  time  still  more  terrible  in  aspect  than  at 
first.  Her  teeth  chattered  loudly  and  her  lips, 
through  which  poured  a  stream  of  dreadful 
curses,  moved  convulsively.  A  whirlwind  arose 
in  the  church;  the  icons  of  the  saints  fell  on  the 
ground,  together  with  the  broken  window-panes. 
The  door  was  wrenched  from  its  hinges,  and  a 
huge  mass  of  monstrous  creatures  rushed  into 
the  church,  which  became  filled  with  the  noise 
of  beating  wings  and  scratching  claws.  All  these 
creatures  flew  and  crept  about,  seeking  for  the 
philosopher,  from  whose  brain  the  last  fumes  of 
intoxication  had  vanished.  He  crossed  himself 
ceaselessly  and  uttered  prayer  after  prayer,  hear- 
ing all  the  time  the  whole  unclean  swarm  rustling 
about  him,  and  brushing  him  with  the  tips  of 
their  wings.  He  had  not  the  courage  to  look  at 
them ;  he  only  saw  one  uncouth  monster  standing 
by  the  wall,  with  long,  shaggy  hair  and  two 
flaming  eyes.  Over  him  something  hung  in  the 
air  which  looked  like  a  gigantic  bladder  covered 
with  countless  crabs'  claws  and  scorpions'  stings, 
and  with  black  clods  of  earth  hanging  from  it. 
All  these  monsters  stared  about  seeking  him,  but 
they  could  not  find  him,  since  he  was  protected 
by  his  sacred  circle. 

''Bring  the  Viy1!     Bring  the  Viy!"  cried 
the  witch. 

1  The  king  of  the  gnomes. 


THE  VIY  247, 

A  sudden  silence  followed;  the  howling  of 
wolves  was  heard  in  the  distance,  and  soon 
heavy  footsteps  resounded  through  the  church. 
Thomas  looked  up  furtively  and  saw  that  an 
ungainly  human  figure  with  crooked  legs  was 
being  led  into  the  church.  He  was  quite  covered 
with  black  soil,  and  his  hands  and  feet  resembled 
knotted  roots.  He  trod  heavily  and  stumbled 
at  every  step.  His  eyelids  were  of  enormous 
length.  With  terror,  Thomas  saw  that  his  face 
was  of  iron.  They  led  him  in  by  the  arms  and 
placed  him  near  Thomas's  circle. 

"  Eaise  my  eyelids  !  I  can't  see  anything !  M 
said  the  Viy  in  a  dull,  hollow  voice,  and  they  all 
hastened  to  help  in  doing  so. 

"  Don't  look!"  an  inner  voice  warned  the 
philosopher;  but  he  could  not  restrain  from 
looking. 

"  There  he  is !  "  exclaimed  the  Viy,  pointing 
an  iron  finger  at  him,  and  all  the  monsters  rushed 
on  him  at  once. 

Struck  dumb  with  terror,  he  sank  to  the 
ground  and  died. 

At  that  moment  there  sounded  a  cock's  crow 
for  the  second  time;  the  earth-spirits  had  not 
heard  the  first  one.  In  alarm  they  hurried  to  tHe 
windows  and  the  door  to  get  out  as  quickly  as 
possible.  But  it  was  too  late;  they  all  remained 
hanging  as  though  fastened  to  the  door  and  the 
windows. 


248  THE  VIY 

When  the  priest  came  he  stood  amazed  at  such 
a  desecration  of  God's  house,  and  did  not  venture 
to  read  prayers  there.  The  church  remained 
standing  as  it  was,  with  the  monsters  hanging  on 
the  windows  and  the  door.  Gradually  it  became 
overgrown  with  creepers,  bushes,  and  wild 
heather,  and  no  one  can  discover  it  now. 

When  the  report  of  this  event  reached  Kieff, 
and  the  theologian  Khalava  heard  what  a  fate  had 
overtaken  the  philosopher  Thomas,  he  sank  for  a 
whole  hour  into  deep  reflection.  He  had  greatly 
altered  of  late ;  after  finishing  his  studies  he  had 
become  bell-ringer  of  one  of  the  chief  churches 
in  the  city,  and  he  always  appeared  with  a  bruised 
nose,  because  the  belfry  staircase  was  in  a 
ruinous  condition. 

' '  Have  you  heard  what  has  happened  to 
Thomas?  "  said  Tiberius  Gorobetz,  who  had 
become  a  philosopher  and  now  wore  a  moustache. 

"Yes;  God  had  appointed  it  so,"  answered 
the  bell-ringer.  -"  Let  us  go  to  the  ale-house ; 
we  will  drink  a  glass  to  his  memory." 

The  young  philosopher,  who,  with  the  enthusi- 
asm of  a  novice,  had  made  such  full  use  of  his 
privileges  as  a  student  that  his  breeches  and  coat 
and  even  his  cap  reeked  of  brandy  and  tobacco, 
agreed  readily  to  the  proposal. 

"He  was  a  fine  fellow,  Thomas,"  said  the 
bell-ringer  as  the  limping  innkeeper  set  the  third 


THE  VIY  249 

jug  of  beer  before  him.  "A  splendid  fellow! 
And  lost  his  life  for  nothing ! ' ' 

"I  know  why  he  perished,"  said  Gorobetz; 
;{  because  he  was  afraid.  If  he  had  not  feared 
her,  the  witch  could  have  done  nothing  to  him. 
One  ought  to  cross  oneself  incessantly  and  spit 
exactly  on  her  tail,  and  then  not  the  least  harm 
can  happen.  I  know  all  about  it,  for  here,  in 
Kieff,  all  the  old  women  in  the  market-place  are 
witches." 

The  bell-ringer  nodded  assent.  But  being 
aware  that  he  could  not  say  any  more,  he  got  up 
cautiously  and  went  out,  swaying  to  the  right  and 
left  in  order  to  find  a  hiding-place  in  the  thick 
steppe  grass  outside  the  town.  At  the  same  time, 
in  accordance  with  his  old  habits,  he  did  not 
forget  to  steal  an  old  boot-sole  which  lay  on  the 
ale-house  bench. 


THE    END 


THE   NORTHUMBERLAND   PRESS,   THORNTON   STREET,    NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE 


14  DAY  USE 

RETURN  TO  DESK  FROM  WHICH  BORROWED 

LOAN  DEPT. 

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on  the  date  to  which  renewed. 

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YB  55754